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Detroit to resume construction with worker safeguards; Duggan pushes census participation

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says the city is ready to jumpstart some construction projects that were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but only with health protections in place.

All workers will need to get a COVID-19 test before they go back to work. They’ll also be required to wear masks, and employers will need to perform daily temperature screenings and symptom checks.

Duggan said he expects those standards will be in place for the longer term—but given the toll COVID-19 has taken on Detroit, there’s really no choice.

“We are going to prepare all the way through. Because we know in the city of Detroit what the consequence are of not preparing,” said Duggan, noting that African Americans have become infected and died at higher rates than whites.

“We’ve lost a thousand of our neighbors. We are going to have a higher standard in the city of Detroit.”

Duggan said all sixteen city construction contractors have agreed to the standards. They’ll resume projects including road repairs and water and sewer line upgrades as soon as next week. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said construction projects can resume throughout the state on May 7.

Duggan also gave an update on Detroit’s census response, saying “where we are is not good.” The citywide response rate so far stands at 42%, though it varies considerably from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Duggan said billions of dollars’ worth of federal funding is at stake.

“We are giving away the money we need for our residents’ health care, for their food, for all kinds of support,” he said. “We lost a huge amount of money in the last decade because we didn’t fill out the forms.”

“If we stay there, our residents are going to suffer for quite a long time.”

Duggan noted that given U.S. history, he understands why some African Americans and other people of color may be reluctant to fill out a census form. But he said all census information will remain confidential until 2080, and communities of color will suffer the most from undercounting.

Duggan said the city desperately needs community leaders to step up, and urge their neighbors to fill out the census form. “Because when it comes to the census, the trusted voice is who you listen to,” he said. “And a lot of times the trusted voice is not government.”

Duggan has enlisted the help of Detroit rapper Icewear Vezzo, who told Detroiters that filling out the census is a simple, concrete way to support their community. “We need this,” Vezzo said.

Michigan Radio listeners, readers, and reporters are rising to the challenge every day. If you can, please support essential journalism during this crisis.

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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