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Leaders say Michigan not close to having access to testing needed to reopen economy

Posted at 6:06 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 07:38:19-04

PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — We all want to go back to life as we knew it before COVID-19. We want to be with our families and friends, go to school and work.

Health experts say to get there without a devastating surge of illnesses and deaths, we need widespread access to testing.

President Donald Trump made headlines when he said this week he has the authority to order states to reopen the economy when he decides the time is right.

“When somebody is President of the United States, their authority is total,” President Trump said of his ability to order states to open their economies.

While many governors question that, the president also said that it is the responsibility of the governors to make sure testing is ramped up before the economy reopens.

Where is Michigan in the effort to get enough testing in place right now?

“We’re still not at that point where we can give everyone who needs a test a test. Or even better yet to start testing people who don’t need a test so we can really see how far COVID-19 has spread,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Governor Whitmer says this is an issue because health officials have said that if we are going to open the economy back up, we need to be able to test people who have possibly been exposed. Then they can be quarantined and others protected.

Right now, the Henry Ford Health System has enough testing supplies to test up to 1,000 patients or workers a day in serious need, but mass testing is not yet feasible in our state.

“In this particular case that test is so critical in us preventing the spread of the disease. Without the availability and widespread availability of testing statewide, lifting the stay-at-home order would put other parts of the state at risk because they wouldn’t have a 12 to 24 hour turnaround in testing,” said Betty Chu, M.D., Henry Ford Health System Chief Quality Officer.

She also says that rural hospitals are particularly vulnerable if we aren’t able to contain the virus as people become sick.

“We know we are going to have to do a lot more testing of our residents in order to open up the economy,” said David Coulter, Oakland County Executive.

WXYZ spoke to him at a testing site that opened appointments for the first time Thursday at the Oakland County Complex for first responders, essential workers, and Pontiac residents with symptoms.

“We are doing 50 a day. It will be 250 by Monday. We need to do thousands a day. And nationally, I am told we have done about 2 million tests so far. We are going to have to do 2 million tests a week to re-open the economy,” said Coulter.

He says Oakland County, like all communities, did not budget for needing so many tests and needs support from all higher levels of government.

“We need your help. This isn’t a partisan issue. I know that in some places around the country they haven’t been hit as hard. But here in Oakland County we have had more than 400 deaths and almost 6,000 people tested positive for the virus,” said Coulter.

As he has tried to increase testing capacity, getting supplies is a huge problem. The reason? Communities around not just the nation, but the globe are all trying to get them at the same time.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

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Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

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