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Duggan: Rapid-response COVID-19 testing coming for first responders, health care workers

Paulette Parker
Michgian Radio
Drive-thru COVID-19 testing began at the former Michgian State Fairgrounds on Friday. Duggan says he wants to expand testing criteria so more people can be tested onsite.

This week, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says Detroit will become one of the first cities in the nation to use rapid-response COVID-19 testing kits.

Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories is providing the tests. They were just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and can give results in as little as 15 minutes.

Duggan called them a game-changer. “This test is so sensitive that you can give it almost instantly after exposure,” he said.

Duggan said five testing machines and 5,000 sample tests are on their way to Michigan. They will be given to health care workers, first responders, and city bus drivers. Duggan said they should be able to test about 250 people a day.

Duggan noted the tests will be critical to not only identifying and caring for people who test positive, but for bringing health care workers and first responders in quarantine back on the job.

Plans are already underway to turn Detroit’s TCF Center into a field hospital for COVID-19 patients, “But we will not be able to staff that field hospital if you’ve got 500 or 1000 health care workers who are off on quarantine,” Duggan said.

Duggan said he’s working on making regular COVID-19 testing available to all Detroiters who need it. He said the city has proved it can test 600-700 people a day at its drive-thru testing site at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds, and that in consultation with the state, the city plans to ease restrictions on who can get tested in the coming days.

“We have to make these tests available to every single Detroiter,” Duggan said. “We’re going to make sure that we reach everybody.”

To that end, Duggan put out a call to clinics and physicians in the city who are willing to accept new patients to come forward, including those willing to accept uninsured patients. The state fairgrounds testing requires a doctor’s prescription and an appointment.

Duggan also called on transportation companies who are willing to work with the city to come forward, and provide rides for residents who don’t have cars. He said TCF Bank has donated $100,000 to transportation fund to help make that happen.

“It is far more efficient for us to bring people to the fairgrounds than to try to get testing materials out to individual homes,” Duggan said.

Duggan also had relatively good news for and about the city’s first responders, who have been hit hard by COVID-19. Currently, the Detroit Police Department has had 69 employees test positive, and 493 officers are in quarantine. Eight Detroit firefighters have tested positive.

But Duggan said that over the weekend, the number of officers being newly-quarantined went down for the first time since the pandemic hit. And 173 officers are in the process being brought back on duty.

And Duggan says starting Monday night, first responders who worry about bringing COVID-19 home to their families have a new option. “We reached out to Greektown Casino, and they are donating their hotel rooms for the next couple of months,” he said.

Duggan warned that Detroit and southeast Michigan are going to be in the thick of the pandemic for at least the next few weeks, and we should expect to see cases continue to climb, especially as testing becomes more widespread.

But Duggan also sounded a note of optimism: “I feel like today, for the first time, we are really starting to get ahead of some of the problems.”

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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