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Duggan touts empty hospital beds, officers back to work

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan touted hundreds of empty hospital beds and the return of police officers Thursday as the city showed a sustained downward trend in COVID-19 related deaths among Detroit residents.

There have been 1,036 deaths in the city from COVID-19 as of Thursday, an increase of 28 from Wednesday, Duggan said. But half of those deaths were from several weeks ago and were slow to be counted because of reporting delays, he said.

There have been 9,038 coronavirus positive tests in the city, an increase of 84 cases from Wednesday.

Looking at the weekly statistics, there were 248 deaths in the city three weeks ago, 271 deaths two weeks ago, 192 deaths last week and 92 deaths in the past seven days, Duggan said.

"We went up very fast (and) we flattened faster than pretty much anybody," he said. "And we are now dropping."

African Americans account for more than 75% of deaths in the city, officials said.

The decline has had an impact on the city's health care systems. Detroit hospitals have 700 empty beds and 100 empty ICU beds, something that would have been "inconceivable weeks ago," Duggan said.

The city's cases had leveled off from April 1 to April 17. The decline has also allowed the majority of quarantining officers back to work, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said.

As of Thursday, 69 members of the Detroit Police Department are positive for the coronavirus. In total, 299 members of the department have tested positive. Still, 99 members remained quarantined.

Police chief James Craig has also recovered from testing positive in March.

"We're very close to completely testing our organization," he said. "We're moving in the right direction. In terms of return to duties, another number I'm very excited about is 1,015 since we started. So, no disruption of service. Our commands are fully staffed, our specialized support units are fully staffed."

Duggan said the day-to-day health care of a lot of Detroiters is being neglected and called for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to quickly open up medical care services.

"It's time to call your doctor and start to get the treatments again," Duggan said. "(Fire) Commissioner Eric Jones tells me that we have a rise in the number of people who when the EMS arrives, are people who are dead on site, who have nothing to do with COVID-19."

Duggan was also joined by Joe Tsai, owner of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets and co-founder of Alibaba, who have partnered with the Detroit Pistons to announce a donation of personal protection equipment to the city.

The donation includes 350,000 masks and 100,000 goggles for first responders, bus riders, and especially for small businesses who have trouble accessing PPE.

Tsai, who joined the press conference virtually from Hong Kong, recalled his last visit to Detroit with his wife when they ate at Selden Standard and bought bread from Avalon.

He said they chose Detroit because it represents "that small business character."

"In Detroit, the fatalities tend to skew toward the elderly, the people that are in the nursing homes, and also the minority, the African American community. This is something that we are very focused on," he said. "We compete on the court but off the court, we try to find opportunities to work together as much as possible so the pistons organization are helping to transport the supplies."

By Thursday, 216 nursing home residents and three workers have died from the virus.

The city recently completed quick-result testing of all the city's 2,030 nursing home residents across all 26 facilities. The next step, Denise Fair, the city's chief public health officer said, is testing all staff by May 15. Personnel at the city's 130 long-term care facilities will also be tested at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds, Fair said.

"Families are facing loss every day due to COVID-19 in Detroit," said Fair, adding she's also lost loved ones to the virus. "We must continue efforts to further lessen COVID-19 in Detroit. This is our new normal, we all have to be accountable."

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_