Whitmer: Goal is to test 450,000 residents for virus in May

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday that she wants 450,000 Michiganders to be tested for the coronavirus this month, an average of nearly 15,000 a day, a critical goal because social-distancing cannot go on indefinitely until a vaccine is developed.

Testing is on the rise. Tests first surpassed 10,000 in a day less than two weeks ago and stayed above that mark in eight of the next 10 days through Saturday. Tricia Foster, the state’s chief operating officer, said the target is 30,000 tests per day — 2% of the population on a weekly basis.

“Until there is a vaccine, social distancing is really the best and only tool that we have to prevent spread. But we know that that can’t be tolerated in perpetuity,” Whitmer told reporters. “Accordingly, widespread testing is critical. Tracing and safety protocols are essential.”

She set a goal of 30,000-plus daily tests in “June and beyond,” in particular among vulnerable populations without access, with more people returning to work and among the contacts of identified cases.

The state said it will partner with local health departments to hire up to 1,000 people to trace and reach those who may have come into contact with infected individuals. That is in addition to thousands of volunteer tracers who will supplement tracing being done by more than 300 county health workers and 100 state employees.

“Aggressive testing, contact tracing and isolation will be the only way we will get ahead of this disease,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s medical executive.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Michigan grew slowly again Monday, rising less than 1% to a total of nearly 47,560 since March, the state health department said.

Deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, increased by 33 to 4,584, the state said.

In hard-hit Detroit, 41 residents died from May 2 through May 8, compared to 167 from April 18-24, Mayor Mike Duggan said. Nearly 10,000 people have been infected.

“We are continuing to succeed at beating the coronavirus,” said Duggan, who plans to cut his daily briefings to three times a week.

The city has completed testing at 36 long-term care facilities, where the infection rate has been running at about 9%. The next target: 70 senior apartment buildings with 10,000 units.

“This is going to be a massive undertaking,” Detroit health officer Denise Fair said.  (AP)

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