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Detroit will offer hazard pay to first responders, as harsh budget cuts loom

sign in detroit
Paulette Parker
Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said on Friday that the city’s rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths are rising more slowly—but that’s “nothing to celebrate.”

On Friday, Detroit reported 6,218 COVID-19 cases and 327 deaths. While it saw its biggest single-day spike in deaths on Friday, Duggan said the doubling rate of deaths has been stretched from 3-4 days to 7-8 days.

“But there’s nothing to celebrate about the fact that our neighbors are dying every 7-8 days,” Duggan said. “We have to stay with this so diligently until we completely break the back of this virus.”

And while there are signs that Detroit may be “flattening the curve”—such as local hospitals reporting fewer new COVID-19 cases than expected—Duggan warned the slowing rate of case growth in Detroit may be misleading.

That’s because a glitch at New Jersey’s BioReference labs, which processes results from drive-through tests at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds, delayed some test results. Duggan said that glitch has been fixed, but positive test results from the fairgrounds have consistently run around 43%.

Duggan said the city is now taking the rapid-response tests it’s used on first responders, bus drivers, and health care workers into nursing homes. He said more data will be released on Monday, but that some initial results have showed infection rates that are “really disturbing.”

Duggan also announced that the city’s first responders, and other employees who interact with the public, will start receiving hazard pay next week. That pay amounts to additional $800 per month, and Duggan said it will last for the duration of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency declaration.

But Duggan said that comes despite the city’s darkening fiscal outlook. He said he will roll out a proposed $100 million in budget cuts next week.

“I had to balance what I thought was the very deserving needs of our first responders and our public-facing employees, against the pain that all 9,000 employees will feel when we have to bring this budget in line,” Duggan said.

Duggan also announced a partnership with Wayne State University to expand testing capacity at the state fairgrounds. Wayne State’s University Physicians Group will help write prescriptions for testing, and provide additional staff at the test site. Duggan said it’s likely that Governor Whitmer will announce a deal for more lab processing capacity in the coming days.

Duggan said the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has also had to temporarily shut down its central services facility after 12 employees tested positive for COVID-19. That facility had been handling the bulk of Detroit’s effort to restore water service to households that had been shut off.

Duggan also said the city received 100,000 surgical masks on Thursday. Many of them will go to Detroit Police officers on patrol to distribute to city residents who want them.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public 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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