Detroit, Wayne Co. issue state of emergency orders as COVID-19 cases rise

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit declared a local state of emergency Tuesday as COVID-19 cases and its variants are on the rise.

Denise Fair, Detroit's chief public health officer, issued the emergency public health order through May 31, saying the city needs to control the speed of the virus that is causing a steep rise in hospitalizations. The order requires that any public meetings by councils or boards subject to the Michigan Open Meetings Act continue to be conducted online.

Detroit Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair demonstrates the correct way to wear a mask during a daily briefing on the status of COVID-19 at the Detroit Police Safety Headquarters in Detroit, June 4, 2020.

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Wayne County Health Officer Dr. Mouhanad Hammami issued a similar order Monday extending virtual meetings through May.

Detroit has seen a 166% increase in the number of COVID-19 cases reported in a six-week period in February and March, with cases rising from 302 to 804.

The positivity rate for COVID-19 tests has also been increasing, rising from 3.2% to 7%  during the same period.

From March 9-16, the state had the highest rate of increase - 53.3% - in COVID-19 cases in the nation. Michigan has the second-most cases of the B.1.1.7. variant in the nation with more than 1,200 known cases. Wayne County has 105 cases of the variant and Detroit has 24.

Fair said public bodies including the Detroit City Council and Board of Police Commissioners do not have facilities that allow for physical-distancing of members and attendees.

"A number of public bodies in Detroit that are subject to the Open Meetings Act will find it difficult, if not impossible, to conduct live meetings open to the public without violating CDC safety guidelines, so we needed to act now," Fair stated in a press release. “We recognize the importance of conducting open and transparent government meetings but we need to do so in a manner that does not jeopardize the public's health and safety.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan virtually presents the 2021-22 budget to Detroit City Council Friday, March 5, 2021.

She said the emergency order could be rescinded prior to May 31 if case rates begin trending down.

The city has had nearly 33,000 cases of COVID-19 since March 2020, resulting in 1,868 deaths.

"In November, our hospitalizations were predominantly 60 (years-old) and up. We haven't seen this before, but what's driving the hospitalization trends today are younger Detroiters and the fact they're hospitalized tells you that this infection, particularly the British variant of it, is hitting a lot harder than we were hit before," Mayor Mike Duggan said Monday.

To date, the city has administered 195,000 doses of 263,000 doses received. It has 43,000 appointments scheduled.

In Detroit, 18.4% of people 16 years and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. By comparison, the percentage of residents in outer Wayne County and Oakland County that have had at least one dose is 35%, Macomb County is at 29%, Washtenaw at 37.4% and Michigan overall is at 32.7%.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_