Coulter 'cautiously optimistic' on Oakland's COVID-19 trend

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — Oakland County Executive David Coulter announced “cautiously optimistic” COVID-19 numbers Thursday and new county programs, including more testing in the field and in senior facilities, plus $12 million in county grant money for small businesses.

David Coulter

As of Thursday, Oakland County had 7,267 cases of the virus and 696 deaths, according to state figures. Coulter said there have been 2,977 county residents who have recovered from COVID-19 and shown no symptoms for at least 30 days. Hospitals, while still having “significant” numbers of virus cases, appear to be stabilizing, he added.

“Our numbers demonstrate a flattening of the curve and we appear to be on the other side of the peak (of cases) from mid April,” said Coulter, who like other officials was wearing a mask during the video conference.

"We are cautiously optimistic at this good news."

While crediting sacrifices made by residents and businesses over the past month, Coulter stressed there is much that still needs to be done, including being vigilant with the use of masks, gloves, social distancing and other safety measures.

Coulter said county testing, including drive-through efforts that began earlier in April tin Pontiac, will be expanded to Southfield this week and Novi by next week. Of more than 23,500 persons tested, 32% were positive for the virus.

“That is part of a downward trend in the right direction but we need more testing and experts tell us the goal is more like 10%,” he said.

He encouraged residents to contact county nurses on call at 800-848-5533 to make appointments to be tested.

Oakland County is partnering with Emergency Medical Services to test “our must vulnerable residents” — all senior citizens in independent living communities, he said. Testing has occurred in West Bloomfield, expanded to Southfield and will include Birmingham facilities by the end of this week, Coulter said.

County health and human services director Kathy Forzley said all senior facilities, including skilled nursing centers, are being contacted on a weekly basis after it was determined 137 senior facilities had been impacted by COVID-19, with 1,377 positive cases and 246 deaths.

The county said along with tracking residents, it will expand financial assistance to small businesses (those employing less than 50 workers) with grants. A $3 million fund will grow by $12 million following approval Wednesday night by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, Coulter said.

“We know some operations are literally fighting for their very survival,” said Commissioner David Woodward, D-Royal Oak, who is chairman of the county board.

“The original $3 million showed there was a great need. We are going to pour more gas into the tank to fuel it.”

Coulter noted 93% of the businesses in Oakland County are small businesses and 7,300 of them applied for grants ranging from an average of $2,500 to a maximum of $10,000 “to help keep the lights on” during the pandemic.

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