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Duggan on Detroit and COVID-19: "We can flat-out beat this.”

Paulette Parker
Michgian Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said on Monday that he’s confident the city can beatCOVID-19 with focused testing and other precautionary measures.

Detroit has been hit hard by the pandemic, reporting 9,388 cases and 1,088 deaths so far. But both cases and deaths have steadily declined over the past two weeks.

Duggan said he continues to worry about two specific points of infection.

“If we can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our elderly communities, and stop it in our workplaces, we can flat-out beat this,” he said.

Detroit has already tested all nursing home residents. Nursing home residents account for more than 200 of Detroit’s deaths.

The city is also in the process of testing other group living facilities, and plans to start testing at senior apartment buildings soon.

And Duggan said the drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds is now open to all essential workers, even if they don’t have symptoms. Employers will need to call to make appointments for their employees.

Duggan said they’ve even begun testing U.S. Postal Service workers, even though that’s a federal agency. Duggan said he was “surprised” the Postal Service hasn’t mandated worker testing.

“I would say to every single one of those workers, we will get you a free test,” Duggan said. “We’re going to get them in, we’re going to get them tested, we’re going to make sure they’re safe.”

Duggan also used his Monday press conference to urge eligible Detroit homeowners to enroll in the Pay As You Stay Program.

The program cancels out interest and fees on past property tax debts. Duggan has said it should cut most people’s tax burden by 60-80%. Homeowners need to be eligible for Detroit’s low-income property tax exemption to qualify.

Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree said he’s sent out more than 4,000 letters to eligible homeowners, advising them of the program. Sabree said around 300 people are currently enrolled in the program, and another 311 had their tax debts reduced to zero.

Longtime east side Detroit homeowner Derrick Kennedy is one of those homeowners who was haunted by property tax debts. Kennedy said despite making payments for years, the hole deepened from interest and penalties—and he could never get out until he enrolled in Pay As You Stay.

“My debt was well over $11,000,” Kennedy said. “The letter I got stipulated that my current situation indicates 600-something dollar debt. I think I can manage that.”

But homeowners need to follow up on the advisories and get in the program. “Look in the mail. And if you got one of those letters, address it,” Kennedy said. “Go on the website and do whatever you need to do.”

People can enroll in the program online, or by mail through the Wayne County Treasurer’s office. The Treasurer’s office will also accept in-person applications once it re-opens.

“We’re going to come through this COVID-19 thing,” Duggan said. “We want to make sure when you do, you come through safe, and in the security of your home.”

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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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