Detroit delaying 3,000 COVID-19 vaccination appointments amid snowstorm

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city is delaying 3,000 Tuesday COVID-19 vaccine appointments to Saturday in anticipation of heavy snowfall that could strand some residents at home, Mayor Mike Duggan said.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for southeast Michigan and Duggan said the city anticipates it will be hit with between six to 10 inches of snow. 

Detroit officials are asking residents to remove their vehicles from residential streets by 6 p.m. Monday and noted crews will be deployed sometime Tuesday morning to begin clearing the 1,884 miles of residential streets and 673 miles of main roads that Detroit oversees. Contractors have 24 hours to complete the snow clearing, the mayor said. 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan speaks about tripling the number of weekly vaccinations and making all Detroiters age 65 and up eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the TCF Center during a news conference at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters in Detroit on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021.

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"We're going to have to work through this as a community. We're going to keep vaccines going to the maximum extent possible, but we're also not going to ask people to be at risk to come down in difficult driving conditions," Duggan said during an afternoon briefing at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters. "There is a good chance you'll have a hard time getting out of your neighborhood tomorrow."

Detroit's DPW Director Ron Brundidge joined Duggan for the news conference, noting there are some city neighborhoods without driveways. The city has not declared a snow emergency and vehicles won't be towed, Duggan said.

Duggan said Monday that Detroit over the weekend recorded its third confirmed case of the new highly contagious variant of COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7, but stressed Detroiters have been vigilant in wearing masks and the city is "watching it closely." 

Duggan, who took part in a Friday meeting at the Oval Office to discuss President Joe Biden's COVID-19 rescue plan, has consistently expanded eligibility for vaccines in the city. He reiterated Monday that he's pressing the state and federal government to increase Detroit's weekly allotment of the vaccine from 15,000 doses to 25,000.

On Monday, the state Department of Health and Human Services announced a new program for ensuring more of Michigan's most vulnerable residents get vaccinated.

Mortuary workers are now eligible for vaccinations and 41 federally qualified health centers in Michigan will begin receiving allocations of vaccine to inoculate people 65 and up in medically underserved communities. As of March 1, the state also will extend eligibility to workers in high-risk food processing and agricultural settings. 

Duggan said the city will detail its own expansion plans in the coming days. 

Detroit received a weekly allocation of 15,000 doses Monday. But Duggan anticipates the allotment will increase by March or early April. 

"Hopefully we will get above 15,000 sooner than that," he said. "But if you talk to the county executives in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb they'd all like more too. Everyone is watching out for their own constituents as they should be. We're the ones who have proven we're doing 15,000 a week without breaking a sweat."

Over the weekend, Detroit hosted its first "Senior Saturdays" COVID-19 vaccination clinics at two churches with the aim of vaccinating 1,000 seniors. Duggan said Monday that on Saturday, Feb. 27 the city will double the number of churches involved to continue to ramp up the effort. 

Joshua Mitchell, a vehicle operator/laborer with the City of Detroit, checks the salt supply in his truck as he makes a quick stop at Conant and Kalsh streets in Hamtramck, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021. Mitchell said he and other City of Detroit workers have been salting the roads since 4 a.m. in preparation of the impending snowstorm.

Duggan late last week announced the city was opening appointments up to residents 18 and older with physical and developmental disabilities and their caregivers. 

Doses of vaccine in Detroit also are being offered to restaurant employees, grocery store workers, security guards and janitorial employees who live or work in the city. 

Others eligible are any "good neighbor" drivers, 65 or older, who bring older residents to the center, essential workers including K-12 teachers, child care workers and federal and state employees who are working in the city, and clergy and mortuary workers.

In response to the storm, the Washtenaw County Health Department said it canceled a vaccination clinic for Tuesday and appointments will be rescheduled. 

Vaccine information is available at www.washtenaw.org/covid19vaccine. Individuals who can't see online information can call (734) 544-6700 or 211 or email l-wchdcontact@washtenaw.org.

cferretti@detroitnews.com