Michigan to receive $315 million for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing as state reopens

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Michigan will receive more than $315 million in federal funding to increase COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and disease surveillance as the state lockdown eases, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday. 

The money is part of $10.25 billion included in the federal Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act to increase COVID-19 testing across the country. 

Provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the money can be used to develop, buy or provide COVID-19 or antibody tests, and for contact tracing and other disease surveillance activities. 

“This funding secured by President Trump for state, tribal and local public health activities is a historic investment in America’s ability to track and control the spread of the virus, which is essential to a safe reopening,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a news release Tuesday.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said increased testing is a critical component of a four-pronged approach to reopening that includes rigorous contact tracing, isolation of those infected and quarantine of people who may have been exposed to the virus.

“As the nation cautiously begins the phased approach to reopening, this considerable investment in expanding both testing and contact tracing capacity for states, localities, territories and tribal communities is essential," Redfield said in Tuesday's press release.

“As communities move toward a blended mitigation and containment strategy, I encourage all Americans to continue to embrace powerful public health measures – social distancing, hand washing and face coverings. We are not defenseless in the battle against this pandemic.”  

States awarded the money are required to submit a detailed testing plan to the federal government that includes information on the easing of mitigation policies, such as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home orders. 

Whitmer generally shuttered the state's economy when she issued her first stay-at-home order on March 23.

The state has been gradually reopening under a six-phase plan laid out by Whitmer in early May, but state health officials have said that increased testing and contact tracing are needed to make sure infection rates don't increase as the economy resumes.  

FILE - In this April 22, 2020, file photo Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

At the end of April, Whitmer extended her stay-home order through May 15, but the Legislature filed a lawsuit challenging her authority to issue the order. Hundreds of demonstrators rallied against Whitmer's order in Lansing on April 30, gaining national attention, and again this month. 

Whitmer's stay-at-home order in place through May 28 generally requires people to remain in their homes. 

Construction, real estate and outdoor businesses reopened with safety precautions on May 7, and auto manufacturers resumed work on Monday.

Whitmer on Monday laid out plans for the partial reopening of Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula later this week in a go-slow approach that will have restaurants and bars operating at half-capacity, among other precautions.

Michigan surpassed 5,000 deaths related to the virus on Tuesday, when 102 new deaths were reported by the state Department of Health and Human Services. 

It was the fifth consecutive day that the state had fewer than 800 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 52,350 known cases since reporting began, according to state data. 

Nearly 80% of all COVID-19 deaths have been among residents of Detroit, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.


Twitter: @kbouffardDN