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Detroit expands rapid COVID-19 testing in face of omicron variant surge

Paulette Parker
Michigan Radio

Detroit is expanding rapid COVID-19 testing as the city sees a surge in cases fueled by the omicron coronavirus variant, Mayor Mike Duggan announced Wednesday.

Detroit already has one testing site at the Joseph Walker Williams Recreation Center. Duggan said it will now add another at Huntington Place (formerly the TCF Center), and should have the capacity to test 1,000 people every day.

“The city of Detroit is acting to make this the easiest place in the country for you to get a COVID test, so you can keep yourself and your family safe if you’re positive,” Duggan said.

The most recent data show Detroit’s test positivity rate hovering near 45%. The city has reported nearly 23,000 new confirmed COVID cases in the past 30 days — a number city officials say is certainly an undercount.

Duggan said the two testing centers aim to be fast and efficient, with people in and out in under an hour. Results will be provided via phone or text within a few hours, he said.

The Williams site provides PCR tests, and Huntington will use antigen testing.

Testing at both sites is free. Appointments are open only to people who live or work in Detroit, and can be arranged by calling 313-230-0505.

While noting that the omicron variant seems to be better at evading vaccine protection than past variants, Duggan still encouraged Detroiters to get vaccinated and boosted. The city has one of the lowest vaccination rates of any jurisdiction in the state — just 45% of Detroiters five and older have received at least one shot, according to the state's data, and only 37% are fully vaccinated.

But Duggan said there are some encouraging signs on that front. “The good news is, we’ve seen double the number of people coming in for vaccines,” he said. “It’s something they should have done close to a year ago, but at least we’re seeing now an uptick in vaccinations.” Duggan also encouraged Detroiters to wear masks indoors in public, and abandon cloth masks in favor of surgical masks or more protective varieties.

Duggan said Wednesday that around 500 Detroiters were hospitalized with COVID. He said the situation is far less dire than it was when Detroit was slammed by the first wave of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, leaving 1,000 Detroiters hospitalized. But he noted that for hospitals now, “their biggest issue is their staff are out sick."

Duggan said he was concerned that hospitals need staff to care for patients at the same time as many of their workers are testing positive for the virus.

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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