DETROIT (AP) — Hundreds of Detroit city workers, including dozens of police officers, have been able to quickly return to work after being quarantined, or have avoided quarantine altogether, thanks to a speedy new test for the coronavirus.
Over the past week or so, more than 1,000 city employees, including officers, firefighters, paramedics and bus drivers, have been given 15-minute nasal swab tests before starting their shifts.
Mayor Mike Duggan’s office said 990 of those tested did not have COVID-19, while 140 tested positive. Testing on police officers showed 307 were negative and 45 were positive.
Before the test — developed by suburban Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories — first responders would have been sent home for several days or even weeks until results from slower tests showed whether they had the virus or not.
As of Friday, Detroit had 6,228 positive cases and 326 deaths from complications caused by the virus. Since the pandemic began, the number of officers in the 2,200-member police department who were quarantined and therefore out of service has ranged from dozens to hundreds to prevent the spread of the disease.
Even Detroit’s police chief, James Craig, tested positive and was quarantined.
“The 15-minute testing is going to benefit everybody,” said Detroit police Corporal Maurice Alexander, who developed a cough and felt fatigued before being tested March 20. On March 24, he learned he also had the virus.
“Initially, when tested I didn’t think that I had it,” he said. “I was being tested because of everything going on.”
Alexander’s nose was swabbed Wednesday. About 15 minutes later, he tested negative for the disease and returned to work Thursday.
Quicker results will help stop the spread of the virus, he said.
“To have to wait four to five to six days for a test (result), and in your mind you don’t think you have it ... you’re out in grocery stores and passing this thing on,” said Alexander, 35, who is a more than eight-year veteran of the force.
Abbott began shipping testing cartridges on April 1 and has sent out more than a half-million to each state, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the Pacific Islands, according to spokeswoman Darcy Ross.
“Our objective has been to provide tests in outbreak hot spots with the goal of testing as many front-line workers and first responders as possible,” Ross told The Associated Press Friday.
The cartridges include nasal swabs and work with instruments already used in doctor offices, emergency rooms and urgent care clinics to check for the flu and strep.
Each test costs around $40.
The company says it is making 50,000 tests per day. It expects to ramp up production to two million per month by June, Ross said.
Detroit spent $377,000 on about 5,000 test kits and other materials.
“This is the game changer we have been waiting for,” Duggan said earlier this month after receiving the tests.
Detroit police Capt. Jevon Johnson, 44, was quarantined for a little less than week after he developed a cough following exposure to another officer who tested positive for the virus.
About 10 to 13 minutes after taking the Abbott test on Monday, Johnson was told he didn’t have COVID-19 and was sent to work.
“Soon as we can get them in they’re tested and can be returned back to the streets safely,” said Johnson, a 21-year department veteran.
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