Testing criteria broadened as rate of coronavirus cases keeps declining

Coronavirus

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan officials have expanded the guidelines on who can get tested for coronavirus, with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also issuing an executive order that tests no longer require a doctor’s order.

“It is my hope that anyone in these guidelines get out and get tested. The more people that get tested, the better,” Whitmer said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “We can get a better appreciation for how real COVID-19 is, how many people are really carrying it. That gets us in a much stronger position to make determinations about when we can safely take that next step forward.”

The following types of people can now get tested:

  • Anyone who is showing any symptoms, even mild ones, of COVID-19;
  • Anyone who was exposed to a person known to have COVID-19;
  • Anyone who has been working outside their home for at least 10 days;
  • Anyone who a local health department or doctor determines is a priority, regardless of whether they show symptoms;
  • Anyone who resides in any congregate setting, like a long-term care facility, prison or jail, homeless shelter or migrant camp.

With more than 250 testing sites statewide, you can find one near you by going to the state’s website or by calling 1.888.535.6136. COVID-19 presents with a fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Testing has been increasing, state officials say — last week, an average of 14,420 samples were tested daily, a 5% increase over the previous week.

“The state of Michigan has received and processed more test results for COVID-19 in the past three months than we did for all reportable diseases in all of 2019,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said during the governor’s briefing.

On Sunday, the most recent day for which state data is available, labs in Michigan tested 11,484 samples for coronavirus and 3.4% were positive. The percentage of positive tests has been declining since early April, when it was at its highest around 40%.

>>PDF: Slides from Tuesday briefing

The state has also launched a new online dashboard that lists county-by-county testing data and the transmission risk level in each region of the state, as determined by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the University of Michigan School of Public Health with guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As we slowly reopen the economy, it will be important for us to monitor data to make sure we are testing sufficiently and to make sure we are swiftly responding to and containing any outbreaks,” Khaldun said as the dashboard was announced. “…It will be paramount that we continue to expand and improve our data reporting so that the public has a good understanding of where we are with the spread of the disease across the state.”

>>Online: MIStartMap.info

KHALDUN: STATE’S CASE RATE DECLINING

According to data released Tuesday, Michigan has recorded an additional 26 deaths linked to coronavirus, bringing the total to 5,266. An additional 223 cases were confirmed statewide Monday, bringing the total to 55,104 since the outbreak began in March.

“The rate of rise of cases continues to decline overall as a state,” Khaldun said, though she reminded everyone that the virus is still present and that people everywhere in Michigan must keep practicing social distancing, wearing masks and frequently washing their hands.

“COVID-19 is going to change the way we live for some time, but we are making progress,” she said.

Wayne County, where the outbreak has been the worst but where Khaldun said cases are steadily going down, has had 19,926 cases (110 more than the day prior) and 2,368 deaths (four more). Oakland County has had 8,240 cases and 958 deaths. Macomb County has had 6,528 cases and 779 deaths.

WEST MICHIGAN HAS HIGHEST RATE OF RISE

In Kent County, there were four more deaths for a total of 72. There have been 3,420 confirmed cases, 34 more than the day prior.

Khaldun said that right now, the Grand Rapids region is seeing the high rates of new cases of the virus in Michigan, with more than 40 new cases per million people per day.

“We knew … every region might have a different look when it comes to rate of rise and when cases go up and how high they go up,” Khaldun noted, also pointing out that West Michigan figures are still declining. “There are several outbreaks. Our local health departments are working closely on that. But again, it will change on a daily basis.”

Kent County Health Department epidemiologist Brian Hartl said recent spikes in case numbers likely has to do with a targeted testing approach.

“Part of it, I think, is just the increased testing in the community,” Hartl said. “Our hospitals are testing more people, our health care partners are testing more people and also last week we had a pretty aggressive approach to testing some high-risk communities in our county.”

Hartl said it’s hard to tell if the county has reached its peak yet, adding that more testing will almost always lead to more confirmed cases.

“As you go out to find cases, those numbers may go up,” he said.

Whatever the number, Hartl said the message about the importance of social distancing and acting responsibly doesn’t change. 

“The message has been the same throughout and we’ll continue that messaging until we see that number of cases come down,” he said.

In Kalamazoo County, there were two more deaths for a total of 51. It has 802 confirmed cases. Ottawa County also had two more deaths for a total of 29. It has had 714 confirmed cases.

Within the Michigan Department of Corrections, where every inmate was tested for the virus, there have been 3,305 cases and 64 inmates have died.

In Genesee County, where Flint is, there have been 1,964 cases and 245 deaths.

Khaldun said cases are declining in southwest Michigan and continue to be low in the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula.

—News 8’s Jacqueline Francis contributed to this report.

  

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