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Here's where Michigan is in terms of testing, contact tracing

Kendal @hikendal for Unsplash

Michigan is now testing nearly 15,000 people per day on average, state officials say. That’s a big improvement. But it’s still far short of the “robust level” of 30,000 daily tests needed “to help us identify any new cases and swiftly contain the disease,” Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Friday. 

“We are strongly encouraging Michiganders toget tested,” Khaldun said. “We've recently expanded our testing criteria. So anyone who has symptoms, no matter how mild, should get a test. Anyone leaving their home for work can get tested, and especially people who are coming into close contact with other people in their jobs, or those who work in settings where there have been outbreaks in the past, should be tested. It's easy to get a test. You don't need a doctor's order before you go. And there aredozens of sites offering testing at no cost to you.”


Khaldun also offered updates on contact tracing, saying that more than 400 people were working in the state’s centralized contact tracing platform to reach everyone testing positive within 24 hours. But so far, she said, they’re only reaching people 60% of the time. 


“This highlights the fact that we really need everyone to pick up the phone when they are called. But by a state or local health department staff,” she said. “When we call you, we will always protect our information and we will never ask for things like money or credit card information or a Social Security number.


"But it is important that we speak with you about your contacts, especially if you have tested positive for COVID-19. We may also be calling you to tell you you’ve been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, and that you need to get tested or you need to self-quarantine to prevent the spread of the disease to others. So please do answer the phone when we call you so that we can do this important public health work.”


Last month, Harvard’s Global Health Institute estimated Michigan would need to do some 58,000 tests per day to reach “minimum targets for how much testing each state needs by May 15 to contain its outbreak through a strategy of testing, tracing and isolating positive cases and their contacts,”according to NPR.


Governor Gretchen Whitmer testified earlier this week that “supply shortages continue to limit how many tests Michigan can conduct each day.” While FEMA started sending “significant numbers of swabs” in May, “we are often given little, and in some cases inaccurate, information about the types of supplies being shipped to the state, which makes planning difficult,” Whitmer stated. 


“As you know, not all laboratories can accept all types of materials, so unexpectedly receiving, for example, a new type of swab or unlabeled vials of saline, can require fully reworking allocation plans,” she said. 


And while free testing is becoming more widely available, often thanks to federal relief efforts, Whitmer called for  “a strong, certain guarantee of free testing, combined with an equally strong outreach campaign to encourage Americans to get tested…”

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Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
Brad Gowland joined Michigan Radio in 2019 to help with the station's growing digital side, specializing in data collection and digital audio.
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