Gov. Whitmer plans to surge 300,000 COVID test kits to schools, priority groups

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced plans Thursday to surge 300,000 COVID-19 test kits to schools, long-term care facilities, jails and homeless shelters.

The governor asked the state Department of Health and Human Services to begin distributing more than 200,000 test kits to schools and other priority groups with another 100,000 kits slated to go out later this week, according to the governor's office.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks before President Joe Biden at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 in Howell.

Whitmer wants to "get every test kit the state has available out to ensure availability of testing for the state’s most vulnerable residents" amid a spike in infections and hospitalizations tied to the contagious omicron variant, a press release said.

"The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will deliver hundreds of thousands of tests to Michiganders in schools, nursing homes, correctional facilities and to our first responders and local health departments," Whitmer said. "I applaud their efforts, and I encourage Michiganders to get their vaccine and booster shots, which remain the best way to keep yourself and your family safe."

Demand for COVID-19 tests has jumped over the last month as the omicron variant has led to a record numbers of new cases in Michigan. Over the seven-day period ending Wednesday, the state reported 123,123 new infections, up 8% over the total from the previous week.

As of Wednesday, there were 4,567 individuals hospitalized with confirmed cases of the virus, down from 4,696 on Friday, Jan. 17.

The public can locate COVID-19 testing sites through an online search tool.

Last week, Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan's chief medical executive, citing modeling from academic institutions and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, predicted the state's current surge will peak between late January and early February. Michiganians face a choice, she said.

"Do we want to work on bringing that peak down or do we just want to let this omicron surge explode?" she asked.