Duggan speaks with Pence, to arrange hotels for Detroit first responders

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan said some relief efforts are en route from the federal government after talking with Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday morning.

It "could not have had a more positive phone call (with Pence)," Duggan said while talking to reporters at the city's drive-thru testing site Saturday. 

Mayor Mike Duggan and Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair

"The vice president just said to me that a whole bunch of shipments are coming and that announcement should come from the governor but I’m pleased to see the federal administration, state administration starting to work together," Duggan said.

"Based on the conversation I just had with the vice president, it sounds like they’re developing a good working relationship with the governor and that’s exactly what we need."

Nearly 500 Detroit officers are being quarantined after 39 officers tested positive, along with Chief James Craig, the mayor announced Friday. A strict return-to-work plan is being implemented for officers. Workers will be tested for fever before starting every shift, no more than two members may be in an elevator at any time, hugging is prohibited, and officials will distribute masks in an effort to keep members safe.  

A major concern among first responders is possibly bringing the virus home to vulnerable family members. Duggan said he's working to establish a partnership with hotels so that by next week, police, firefighters and EMT workers are given a hotel room "until this passes."

"Things are bad in Detroit. When our police chief tests positive and so many officers and so many people are positive… it is bad," Duggan said.  "The numbers are going to get a lot worse because we’re testing. That’s a good thing, but I’m still seeing videos of people gathering in groups. It’s so disrespectful to these health workers who are risking their lives along with EMTs and first responders. It’s going to be for several weeks. Stay home."

"There are so many people who have this in Detroit. We can not give this a new host to jump to."

Duggan spoke on the relationship after President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks Friday night on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who said equipment that Michigan and other states need to fight the coronavirus epidemic is being diverted to the federal government.

As of Saturday afternoon, Detroit has 1,381 positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 31 deaths, said Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair.

"We know this is spreading rapidly and I want to express my condolences to the families who have been impacted and their lives will be forever changed," she said. "We can expect the number of cases to increase very rapidly because testing is now available." 

Anyone in the tri-county area can visit Detroit's drive-thru testing site at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds, which launched Friday. Patients need a prescription from a doctor to receive the test and make an appointment in advance by calling (313) 230-0505.

The drive-thru has been successful, testing 20 people an hour Friday, 40 people an hour Saturday and hopes to increase to 70 an hour by Monday, Duggan said.

COVID-19 testing begins at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit on Friday, March 27, 2020.

“There are times where it feels like all we are getting is problems and ... to have the administration reach out in such a proactive way, to have the vice president so enthused by what we’re doing at this regional testing site and wanting to know how to help, it feels like we got help," Duggan said.

The mayor added they've already been receiving a plethora of help from JPMorgan Chase, Dr. Roberta Romero and the National Institute of Health, hospital systems, Quicken Loans and DTE Energy, which is offering to back up the procurement department, he said.

"At the end of the day, the federal government has to drive the procurement process and after the conversation with the vice president, I feel really good that they’re heading in the right direction," Duggan said.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_