Duggan: Detroit's COVID-19 deaths flat; Whitmer's extension 'clearly right decision'

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The city of Detroit reported an increase of 87 COVID-19 related deaths and 168 cases Tuesday, bringing the city's total deaths to 716 and total cases to 7,904. 

While there were ups and downs in the data over the weekend, the city has averaged about 36 deaths a day for the past several days, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Tuesday. 

"We went up very fast, we started to come down and now we're at a flat level," he said.

Whitmer's stay-home extension was "clearly the right decision," Duggan said. But the only way to knock down the plateau is to test people without symptoms because they are likely the ones spreading the virus, the mayor said.

Nearly 80% of the deaths so far have occurred among individuals who are over the age of 60, according to city data. Three-quarters of the death have occurred among African Americans, while the incidence of cases among blacks in Detroit is nearly 65%. 

Women made up 55% of the people with confirmed cases of COVID-19, while men made up 55% of the COVID-19 related deaths. 

Many of the deaths so far in Detroit have occurred at the city's nursing homes. Duggan said Monday he wouldn't be surprised if, at the end of the virus, 20% to 25% of the city's victims were nursing home residents and staff.

Duggan on Tuesday said there were 124 deaths recorded among residents and staff in city nursing homes, but he said it's likely the final number will be "dramatically" higher. 

The city is two-thirds of the way through testing residents of city nursing homes. So far, 26% of the 1,282 residents and staff tested have positive for the virus, Duggan said. 

"Our infection rate among the homeless in the homeless shelters is far lower than it is in the nursing homes," Duggan said, noting early, proactive outreach and mitigation among the homeless community.

Four health professionals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help the city in responding to nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities by developing testing strategy, site visits and help train staff in the facilities. 

As of Tuesday, 12,000 KN95 masks, 6,000 gloves, 150 gowns and 300 face shields have been delivered to Detroit nursing home facilities to protect residents and staff, said Detroit Health department spokeswoman Vicki Winn. 

COVID-19 testing begins at the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

Detroit on Monday became the first Michigan city to open up COVID-19 testing to city staff and essential-business employees who don't have virus symptoms or prescriptions.

"We've had 140 companies sign up with 5,000 employees who are being scheduled right now at the fairgrounds," Duggan said. More than half of those requests stemmed from businesses handling food, but others were day care centers, doctor's offices and USPS workers, he said.

"By the middle of next week, we'll be testing 1,500 people a day," Duggan said.

The city also encouraged residents still waiting on a stimulus check to click on "Get you $1,200 stimulus check" on the city website for information on the process. 

Residents without bank accounts could wait up to five months for a paper check from the IRS. 

To avoid that wait, the city has partnered with several banks to help residents set up accounts. If a resident insists on a paper check, he or she can a stimulus check at Chase bank for free.

Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed