Mayor Duggan touts rapid coronavirus testing on Rachel Maddow Show

May 6, 2020 at 9:53 am
Mayor Mike Duggan appears on The Rachel Maddow Show. - Rachel Maddow Show
Rachel Maddow Show
Mayor Mike Duggan appears on The Rachel Maddow Show.

Mayor Mike Duggan credited rapid testing for the dramatic decline in new coronavirus cases and deaths in an interview on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC on Tuesday evening.

Maddow said she invited the Detroit mayor on the show because the city has taken a unique and effective approach to testing that could be mirrored nationwide.

In early May, Duggan convinced Abbott Laboratories to deliver thousands of tests that produce results in 15 minutes. Detroit was one of the first cities in the nation to receive the rapid tests, which the city has used for police officers, medics, bus drivers, health care workers, and nursing home residents. The city has received 8,500 rapid tests so far.

“We didn’t really have any choice on the testing,” Duggan told Maddow. “We got hit so fast that by the second week a quarter of the police department was out on quarantine, and it was shocking how fast the virus was spreading. We got obsessed with the testing off the bat.”

Over a 10-day period last month, Detroit used rapid testing on all nursing home residents in the city. Of the more than 2,000 tested, more than a quarter tested positive, and many weren’t showing symptoms. After testing each nursing home resident, the city forwarded the results to the facilities so they could isolate the infected ones. The city also provided nursing homes with personal protective equipment and guidelines on how to handle the coronavirus in congregate settings.

“A quarter of the people with no symptoms were positive,” said Duggan, who served as president and CEO of Detroit Medical Center from 2004-12. “If you’re a nursing home administrator and people with symptoms are spreading the disease, you have no way of isolating them. It really is the reason why rapid testing is at the center of what this country has got to do to beat this thing.”

As of last week, 233 nursing home residents and three staff members have died from COVID-19.

The city also used rapid testing on police and firefighters who were under quarantine to hasten their return if they were not infected.

Detroit has increased its testing capacity to 1,500 a day at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. For those, the city used the traditional tests that take a day to three days to produce results. Now the city has expanded its testing criteria to include asymptomatic employees who interact with the public.

Estimating that one of every 10 metro Detroiters is infected with COVID-19, Duggan has begun requiring every grocery store worker to get tested.

While other states and cities complained about the lack of testing supplies, Duggan said he spent his days talking to manufacturers to get the tests, swabs, and reagents.

“We don’t spend a lot of time with politics,” Duggan said. “I’m on the phone all day with labs and with doctors.”

Detroit has the second-highest number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S., behind New York City. So far, 1,111 residents have died from COVID-19, and nearly 9,500 have tested positive.

But the rate of new deaths has declined significantly.

“We’re testing 1,500 people a day, and it's making a huge difference,” Duggan said. “Three weeks ago we had about the highest death rate in the country, and now it has dropped 80%, and half of our hospital beds are empty.”

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