COVID-19 tests are in high demand as omicron cases surge in Michigan

Dec 29, 2021 at 4:26 pm
click to enlarge Detroiters wait in line to get a COVID-19 test at Joseph Walker William Community Center. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
Detroiters wait in line to get a COVID-19 test at Joseph Walker William Community Center.

Getting a COVID-19 test is proving to be difficult for many people who are worried they were infected during the holidays.

Pharmacies have run out of at-home tests, and many testing sites are fully booked.

The timing couldn’t be worse. The city of Detroit is averaging about 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day, and 70 deaths were reported in the past week.

Then came the holidays, when families and friends gathered together — just as the highly contagious omicron variant became the dominant strain of the virus. More than 90% of the new COVID-19 cases in Michigan are expected to be the omicron strain.

“I am very, very concerned about the city of Detroit,” Denise Fair Razo, chief public health officer of Detroit, tells Metro Times. “We are seeing a spike right now. Omicron spreads so much easier and faster. I’m encouraging everyone to be really cautious about celebrating indoors.”

The city is booking about 800 testing appointments a day. At the Joseph Walker Williams Community Center and Huntington Place, formerly the TCF Center, there are no available appointments until next week.

But the city is still accepting walk-ins, though wait times may be lengthy for people who don’t have an appointment, Fair Razo says.

“I applaud Detroiters who are willing to get tested because that means they want to put their families first and protect themselves and their community,” Fair Razo says. “It’s such an easy process. People are in and out within a half-hour. It’s really seamless.”

State health officials acknowledged the high demand but said testing isn’t impossible to find.

“There is adequate availability in the state, but we are aware there is an increased demand recently due to the surge in cases, identification of the Omicron variant in the state, and Michiganders getting tested before the holidays,” Chelsea Wuth, spokeswoman at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, tells Metro Times.

Pop-up and community testing sites also are available statewide and can be accessed online.

More at-home tests will soon become available soon under a plan announced last week by President Joe Biden. Half a billion at-home tests will be sent to Americans at no cost.

“We anticipate that Michiganders will have additional access to tests, however we don’t have the details yet,” Wuth says.

In the meantime, health officials are encouraging residents to get vaccinated and boosted and to wear a mask while in public.

"You should get the booster, which will give you that extra layer of protection to keep you out of the hospital and keep yourself safe and protected," Fair Razo says. "It's not enough to mask up. We are still in the middle of a pandemic. ... We have worked too hard to go backwards."

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