The coronavirus is hitting Detroit harder than New York City, the epicenter of the virus in the U.S.
In just the past three days, Detroit’s death toll nearly doubled, reaching 221 on Tuesday. During that period, the city averaged more than 3o deaths a day.
And public health officials warn that the worst is yet to come.
Detroit has a rate of 32.9 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 21.2 deaths per 100,000 people in New York City.
More than 5,500 Detroit residents have tested positive for COVID-19 — a nearly five-fold increase since March 27. With a severe shortage of testing kits, public health officials believe far many more Detroiters have been infected.
Mayor Mike Duggan has made it a priority to increase the city’s testing capacity. Frustrated by the slow pace of testing, Duggan led the creation of a regional site at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds at Eight Mile and Woodward, where he expects at least 14,000 people will be tested for COVID-19 over the next six weeks. During the first two days, 43% of the people who were tested were positive for the coronavirus. The city is also working with doctors who are willing to see patients who don’t have insurance.
“We’re going to make testing available to every single person in this city who needs [it],” Duggan said Thursday. “It is critical that every single Detroiter have access to this.”
Duggan said the city is now testing 800 people a day.
More than 150 Detroit Police Department employees, including Chief James Craig, have tested positive for COVID-19, and an additional 524 officers and police civilians were under quarantine, as of last week. At least 43 firefighters and medics also have confirmed infections, and more than 75 have been under quarantine.
Two state lawmakers from Detroit – Reps. Tyron Carter and Karen Whitsett –have tested positive for the coronavirus, and state Rep. Isaac Robinson, also from Detroit, died from a suspected infection.
Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones also tested positive for COVID-19.
The coronavirus has claimed the lives of two city inspectors, a bus driver, and three members of the police department.
Statewide, the coronavirus infection and death rate is disproportionately high for Black people, who make up 13.6% of the state’s residents but more than 40% of the fatalities. Black people also account for about a third of the 17,000 cases.
The city of Detroit, however, has not disclosed a racial breakdown of patients and fatalities, making it difficult to determine the impact on Black people.
“At this point, we are experiencing widespread transmission and are working aggressively to trace in vulnerable settings like nursing homes and homeless shelters, where people are housed in close quarters and are typically more vulnerable,” Denise Fair, Detroit’s chief public health officer, tells Metro Times.
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