Detroit will soon have state-of-the-art coronavirus testing capabilities that could slow the spread of the virus in healthcare workers and first responders.
The city has reached a deal to purchase five testing machines and 5,000 testing kits that detect coronavirus soon after exposure and provide results within 15 minutes, Mayor Mike Duggan announced in a Monday media briefing. The tests, by Abbot Laboratories, received FDA approval just Friday.
“This is a game-changer for the country,” Duggan said of the new tests, noting that until now coronavirus could only be detected in individuals already showing symptoms. “Four and five days (after exposure) is four and five days when people are out there not knowing.”
Detroit police, fire, EMS workers and bus drivers will be eligible for the expedited testing. Abbott is also expected to partner with southeastern Michigan hospitals.
The Detroit Police Department has been particularly hard hit by the spread of the virus, with 600 members under quarantine, the majority of them officers. Two members, a captain and 9-1-1 dispatcher, have died and 69 are confirmed positive, including Chief James Craig.
The partnership is one of the strategies through which Duggan feels Detroit is finally "starting to get ahead of" the virus rather than "catching up and chasing," though he conceded the city's caseload likely won't peak for several more weeks.
Detroit climbed to 1,804 confirmed coronavirus cases and 50 deaths Monday.
Duggan says he's now turning his focus to ensuring every Detroiter who needs a test can get one. The city expects to on Tuesday launch a data base of Detroit doctors and clinics who can refer patients for testing, with some accepting no insurance. It's also trying to recruit transportation companies to drive patients to testing sites. TCF Bank on Sunday committed $100,000 toward that goal, Duggan said.
More than 1,000 people have been tested at the the State Fairgrounds since it opened, with capacity for 700 swabs per day.
Duggan also provided an update news on Craig’s condition and the outbreak in the police department in the briefing from Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.
“He’s strong, he's very much in charge," he said of Craig. "He’s calling and barking orders to his command staff… He wants everyone to know that his body is fighting off this infection. Nobody takes this disease lightly but he is doing well.”
The rate of infection within the department also appears to be slowing, Duggan indicated. A little over two dozen officers went into quarantine over the weekend, the lowest number in the 10 days since the department began reporting cases. Nearly 200 officers are in the process of being brought back from quarantine.
Falling crime amid a shelter-in-place order has helped the department cope with the personnel shortage. Duggan said crime last week was down 40 percent over the week prior.
Separately, eight members of the Detroit Fire Department have tested positive for coronavirus and 133 have been brought back to work.
Members of the police and fire departments were being tested Tuesday and Wednesday at the State Fair grounds and will be eligible for free hotel rooms donated by Greektown Casino starting Monday night. The rooms are reserved for workers with high-risk family members at home.
The city will begin testing a backlog of bus drivers for coronavirus Thursday.