Detroit's confirmed COVID-19 cases rise to 5,834, 247 total deaths

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city on Wednesday reported 333 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus, reflecting a slight decline recently in the number of positive cases reported here within a 24-hour period as testing for the virus continues to ramp up. 

Detroit's Health Department recorded 5,834 cases and a total of 247 deaths, including 26 new fatalities over Tuesday.

The number of positive cases reported per day in the city is beginning to decline as Detroit increases the number of tests being conducted daily at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds.

Mayor Mike Duggan said Wednesday the deaths are the "hardest part of this job," but the rate has slowed. 

"We are seeing the line, the curve, beginning to flatten out," the mayor said during an afternoon news conference. "The reason this is flattening out is because of you. The people of this city are honoring social distancing."

Hospitals are "starting to see a shift" too. They still are seeing increases in admissions but the gains are slower than they had been, Duggan said. 

The TCF Center downtown is among the sites in Michigan prepared to take overflow patients from hospitals. "It's early to tell, but if we do this right, we might not have to have 1,000 beds at the TCF Center," he added. 

The fairgrounds site is now testing about 900 people per day, up from 800 per day, with rapid testing kits for police, fire and other essential workers. 

"I want every single person in the city of Detroit who is showing symptoms to get tested right away," the mayor said. "This is how we beat this, when we know who is really sick and who is not and we can separate the infectious from the noninfectious."

Duggan told reporters Tuesday that the rate of doubling for recorded COVID-19 deaths in the city was "slowing to every five to six days."

People file onto a Detroit Department of Transportation bus in Detroit, Wednesday. Masks are now available for free, although keeping people from taking more than one is a problem.

The city has been among the areas hit hardest by the disease in the country.

On Sunday, Detroit reported confirmed cases of the virus rose by 588 and 38 new deaths. Monday, the increase of positive cases in a 24-hour span was 475 and there were 29 new deaths, and Tuesday figures reflected 469 new cases and 25 additional deaths. 

The mayor warned that infections go down because of distancing, but when people cluster again the virus "spikes back up." 

"We are starting to weaken it and if we don't give it new energy by clustering, we are going to continue to be successful," he said. 

DDOT received a $64.3 million grant to the Detroit Department of Transportation to help pay for transit operations, increased bus cleaning and providing personal protective equipment like masks and gloves to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As an added safety measure, Detroit on Wednesday began providing boxes of face masks to riders on all Detroit Department of Transportation buses.

Duggan reiterated losses in some of the city's top revenue sources — casino and income tax — that have contributed to a $100 million deficit in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and "painful cuts" would be necessary. 

The mayor on Wednesday pointed to the city's rainy day fund as a help amid the crisis and said "we will not run a deficit at the end of the day."

Duggan, who advocated for a failed bond plan that would have funded demolition of vacant homes, said it's apparent that the bond is needed and as a result of the city's financial losses "we've had to shut down demolition, virtually completely."

The city, he said, is "looking seriously" at eliminating more unfilled positions, imposing furloughs and enacting executive pay cuts.

Detroit and Wayne County officials this week said they were evaluating the potential of hazard pay for front-line workers.

The mayor on Wednesday said he's been lobbying the federal government for funding to support that additional pay. But at the same time, the city has to keep its shortfall in mind. 

"The city of Detroit could still lose self-determination of our finances," he said. "Nothing in state law says if you have a health crisis you don't have to balance your budget."