Michigan is flattening the coronavirus curve and increasing testing capacity

click to enlarge A sign outside of Detroit's drive-thru coronavirus testing facility at the former State Fairgrounds. - Courtesy of the City of Detroit
Courtesy of the City of Detroit
A sign outside of Detroit's drive-thru coronavirus testing facility at the former State Fairgrounds.

Michigan’s stay-at-home order has one purpose: Stop the deadly spread of the coronavirus.

And it appears to be working.

The number of COVID-19 hospital admissions in Michigan has declined 34.2% since peaking at 3,986 on April 12. During the same period, the number of patients on a ventilator dropped 41.3%, from 1,365 to 801.

The spread of infections and the number of new deaths also are slowing, but the figures remain grim: More than 100 Michigan residents are dying a day, and another 1,000 people are testing positive.

“We’re still seeing many new cases of COVID-19 and many more deaths,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said at a recent news conference. “The rate of growth in cases has plateaued ... Some hospitals are actually discharging more patients than they are admitting.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who issued her first stay-at-home order on March 24 and has extended it through May 15, said she’s not comfortable reopening the full economy until there's a significant decline in new cases and deaths, a doubling or tripling of the state’s testing capacity, a sufficient number of personal protective equipment at hospitals, and adequate space for new patients in intensive care units (ICUs).

“I will be guided by the data, not artificial timelines. There is no hard and fast timeline,” Whitmer said at a news conference Monday. "As we set dates, we will continue to keep you informed. … This is the smartest way to proceed.”

Even though hospital admissions are down statewide, some ICUs are still at capacity.

“We have seen some gradual decline in admissions and ICU utilization over the past few days,” Dr. Adnan Munkarah, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Henry Ford Health System, tells Metro Times in a written statement. “A couple of our system hospitals’ ICU continue to be at full capacity. However, we have recovered some ICU capacity in the past couple of days when looking at the whole system.”

At Beaumont, the state’s largest health system, ICUs are freeing up as admissions decline.

“We’re seeing favorable trends with COVID-19 discharges and admissions,” Beaumont spokesman Robert Ortlieb tells Metro Times in an email. “Since March 1, Beaumont Health has discharged 2,390 COVID-19 patients with 177 patients taken off ventilators. Currently, systemwide, Beaumont has 628 COVID-19 positive hospitalized patients, compared to the health system’s highest number of COVID-19 positive hospitalized patients: 1,101 on April 7.”

From the beginning of the outbreak, Michigan has struggled to increase its testing capacity because of a shortage of reagents and swabs. To reopen the economy, public health experts say states need an abundant supply of tests to determine how much of the population has been infected and to identify small outbreaks before they balloon.

Khaldun says the goal is to test 15,000 people a day. So far this month, Michigan has tested an average of 5,090 people a day, and the number is rising. In the past five days, the state averaged 7,424 daily tests.

For the first time, Michigan is now testing asymptomatic essential employees.

“Over the past week we’ve watched the number of new cases slowly decline,” Whitmer said at a news conference Tuesday. “We are not out of the woods yet, but we are seeing signs that give us reason to be optimistic.”

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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