Michigan adds testing for essential workers without symptoms
LANSING (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday said the state is working with major retailers to open more drive-thru sites to test as many as 1,000 people a day for the coronavirus, especially people who don’t have symptoms but still are required
to work outside their home.
“Robust testing is essential to have confidence about our strategies for safely reducing risk and re-engaging sectors of our economy,” Whitmer said.
She said Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid are part of the plan to open eight test sites across the state.
Whitmer cautioned, however, that there’s a shortage of swabs and chemicals needed to complete tests.
If labs had all the supplies they needed, 11,300 tests a day could be performed, the governor said.
“The reality is we’re about half of that because we need additional swabs and reagents,” Whitmer said. “However, those supplies are in demand globally, and we are competing to get them and working incredibly hard so that we can ramp up to that 11,300 capacity and hopefully beyond.”
The state health department reported a daily rise in new coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths, but both were smaller than the new numbers disclosed Sunday. The number of people infected increased by 576 to 32,000, although many of them have long recovered, while deaths rose by 77 to 2,468.
They included a 5-year-old Detroit girl, Skylar Herbert, the youngest person to die in Michigan. Mayor Mike Duggan said 119 people in Detroit nursing homes have died.
The number of people in hospitals has dropped 15% from a high point 10 days ago, Whitmer said.
“We’re seeing a plateau in cases in most areas of the state,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s medical executive.
In western Michigan, a JBS meat packing reopened in Allegan County. Sixty people there have tested positive for the coronavirus, county health spokeswoman Lindsay Maunz told WOOD-TV.
The governor used her afternoon news conference to take another jab at thousands of people in vehicles who jammed streets around the Capitol last week to denounce her restrictions against work and gatherings.
“In World War II, there weren’t people lining up at the Capitol to protest the fact that they had to drop everything they were doing and build planes or tanks or ration food,” Whitmer said. “They rolled up their sleeves and they got to work. … This action isn’t about our individual right to gather. It’s about our parents’ right to live.”
She said while she respects people’s right to dissent, and said she asked Vice President Mike Pence — who held a video conference with governors — to “echo our call to our citizens to stay home in order to stay safe.”
More than 1 million people in Michigan have filed unemployment claims. Whitmer said she’ll likely ease some restrictions by May 1. She also said she’s taking a 10% cut in her $159,300 salary and asking senior staff to take a 5% cut.
GOP WEIGHS IN
Republicans who control the state House gave the Democratic governor a “roadmap” to reopening the economy. They want a regional approach, with each of 83 counties ranked by risk among three tiers. Much of her stay-at-home order would remain intact in hard-hit metro Detroit for now, for instance.
There would be more flexibility — for funeral gatherings, travel between residences, elective health care procedures — elsewhere depending on data such as hospital admission rates and case trends. A nine-person task force would determine which industries are safe.
“This is about giving people hope for the future and peace of mind about what comes next,” said House Speaker Lee Chatfield.
Whitmer said Republicans — the Senate GOP announced a proposal last week — have “some good ideas.” The key, she said, is avoiding another surge of cases.
“That’s what we need to avoid and so that’s why the slow, methodical ramping up of different segments of our economy over time is essential,” Whitmer said.
Starting today, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, homes for the aged and adult foster care facilities must report COVID-19 cases and deaths to the state each day — not just county health departments. They also have to give information on their inventory of personal protective equipment.
The state also launched special teams to help long-term care facilities follow best practices to prevent infections and test residents.
The U.S. and Canada extended restrictions on border crossings for another 30 days, limiting travel to health care workers, commercial trucks and others deemed essential.