Detroit reports 733 COVID-19 deaths with small increase; 8,105 cases

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Detroit now exceeds 8,000 and 733 residents have died. 

Detroit's Health Department on Wednesday reported 17 more deaths over the day prior, while the number of positive cases has climbed by 201. The daily death toll represents one of the smallest increases in recent weeks and comes as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has urged more testing to get a better picture of the spread of the virus.

On Tuesday, the city recorded 87 new deaths over Monday. 

Mayor Mike Duggan has said the city has averaged about 36 deaths per day over the past few days. He said the city is at "a flat level" and that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-home extension was "clearly the right decision."

The city's nursing homes have been hard-hit by the virus. The mayor during a media briefing was joined by a statewide nursing home leader and an operator of multiple Detroit nursing homes involved in the from the city's plan to test all city nursing home staff and residents over a 10-day period expected to wrap up Thursday. 

"We are seeing the nursing homes do what we had hoped; setting up separate COVID-19 areas, isolating patients the way they should, and I feel like we are seeing the kind of partnership we should see," the mayor said. 

Mohammad Qazi, president of Ciena Healthcare, operates seven nursing homes in Detroit. Three weeks ago, he said, "there's no secret" there was hardly any testing getting done. Staff worries and a lack of personal protective equipment in the nursing homes has also been a challenge. 

"We're painfully aware of the fact that it has been a huge crisis in the community," he said. "Being in the nursing home, we are dealing with the population most vulnerable. It's the elderly and they have the underlying conditions. The challenges have been pretty evident."

There is no more communal dining and "less and less interaction," Qazi said, to "keep our residents healthy and also our staff healthy."

Qazi also operates Regency at Livonia, where 15 people died in recent weeks. The reason, he said, is "difficult to pinpoint."

Detroit's Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair said the city has administered 1,445 tests in 21 of the 26 nursing homes in the city. There have been 357 COVID-positive cases, an infection rate of 26% and 129 total deaths.

Duggan has said he wouldn't be surprised if, when the pandemic is over, 20% to 25% of the city's victims were nursing home residents and staff.

The city said that four health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help Detroit respond to nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities by developing testing strategy, making site visits and conducting staff training. 

The city this week also became the first in Michigan to offer drive-up testing for city staff and workers of essential city businesses without COVID-19 symptoms or prescriptions for testing. Those seeking the tests must have appointments. Businesses checks must be coordinated by companies or managers, officials said. 

Duggan said Tuesday 140 had signed up in one day and 5,000 employees from the food service industry, daycare centers, medical offices and postal workers were being scheduled for testing at a regional site at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit. 

Detroit also was one of the first cities in the country to get rapid testing kits and machines from Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories. The mayor said 10 more of the machines arrived in the Wednesday. 

Nearly 80% of the deaths have occurred among individuals who are over the age of 60, according to city data. Three-quarters of the deaths 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. 

The mayor on Wednesday said residents shouldn't expect the annual June fireworks display along the Detroit River to take place as usual this year. It may be pushed back to later summer, fall or even the next year.

"I'm not going to allow crowds of that size on the original schedule," he said. 

Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed