The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the state is ramping up contact tracing for positive cases of COVID-19. That involves monitoring and testing people who have been in contact with a positive case.
Last week, state officials said that between the state lab, labs in hospital health systems, and commercial labs, the state has the capacity to process about 9,500 tests a day. Monday that number climbed to upwards of 11,000 tests a day. However, due to nationwide shortages of test ingredients, like swabs and reagents, at most only about 6,000 tests can be processed a day, and the average for the last week was 4,510 tests a day.
David Hutton is an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. He says right now, that’s not enough to handle the scope of the outbreak in Michigan.
"Once the number of cases drops more, it makes having a capacity of 10,000 tests a day or so, that makes that more manageable, because you can focus your efforts on those people who you can find," Hutton said.
Last week, the state expanded testing guidelines to include mild symptoms of COVID-19. Monday those guidelines were expanded further, to include any employees still reporting to work. Hutton says that’s a good start, especially because more and more public facing workers are going to be exposed.
Hutton says the combination of contact tracing and expanded testing is going to be important for reducing the spread of COVID-19. He says a testing capacity of ten to eleven thousand tests a day may be sufficient when the state starts to see between 100-200 new cases a day. Right now, Michigan is seeing about 600 new positive cases a day. Hutton also predicts Michigan’s mortality rate might be higher due to the testing priorities thus far having been those with severe symptoms who have been hospitalized.
“I think we’re missing a ton of people who are actually infected, both symptomatically and asymptomatically infected, so that’s why we really need to get the numbers down, and we need to have a lot of testing capacity to make sure that we can find all of those infected people,” he said.
UPDATE: This post has been updated to more accurately reflect the number of tests being administered each day in Michigan.