Michigan, which confirmed its first two cases of the coronavirus Tuesday night, is at risk of running out of test kits, a scenario that could undermine health officials’ ability to slow the spread of the illness.
As of Tuesday, the state only had 385 coronavirus test kits. Many labs are running at least two tests per patient. If testing continues to multiply at the current rate, the state may soon run out.
Meanwhile, Michigan State University announced Wednesday morning that it’s suspending face-to-face classes until April 20.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency late Tuesday night after two coronavirus cases came back positive — one in Wayne County and another in Oakland County.
“We are taking every step we can to mitigate the spread of the virus and keep Michiganders safe,” Whitmer said in a news release. “I have declared a state of emergency to harness all of our resources across state government to slow the spread of the virus and protect families. It’s crucial that all Michiganders continue to take preventative measures to lower their risk, and to share this information with their friends, family, and co-workers.”
The number of positive cases nationwide topped 1,000, spreading across at least 38 states. Globally, the number of confirmed cases surpassed 92,000.
Health officials fear the cases will spread even faster as some states, especially Michigan, grapple with a lack of test kits. Instead of testing anyone with symptoms, the state has relatively strict criteria to cope with the shortage. As of Tuesday, 87 people were under active monitoring but had not been tested.
To date, the state has administered 77 tests — up from eight a week ago. Of those tested, 18 are awaiting results. An additional 57 came back negative.
Federal health officials said last week that 75,000 test kits were available nationwide. Asked why the state has fewer than 400 test kits, health officials said there was no evidence coronavirus was spreading in the state.
“Until March 10, Michigan did not have any COVID-19 cases and at this date does not have evidence of community spread,” Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, tells Metro Times
Sutfin says the state has ordered additional kits, but it’s unclear when they will arrive. For now, Sutfin insists, the state has enough tests.
“At this time, the MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories has enough supplies to provide testing for the specimens we are receiving,” Sutfin says. “In addition, private labs started providing testing for COVID-19 as of this week, providing another avenue for testing.”
The two positive cases involve a woman from Oakland County who recently traveled internationally, and a man from Wayne County who traveled inside the country. Both have been quarantined, health officials said.
“We are taking the identification of COVID-19 in our state very seriously,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, said in a written statement. “We continue to urge Michiganders to take precautions to prevent the spread of this virus in our state.”
So what should we expect in Michigan? Depending on the severity of the outbreak, governments and organizations could close schools and universities, halt mass transit, and cancel sports, entertainment, religious, and political gatherings. Employers could order employees to work remotely. People may decide to stay at home and avoid restaurants, coffee shops, movies, and other places to socialize, which could hurt the local economy. And state health officials have the authority to quarantine people in their homes or medical facilities.
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