Report: Detroit's coronavirus infection rate is among the nation's highest

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Detroit officials announced they were restoring water to thousands of homes and offering a moratorium on residential water shutoffs as the coronavirus spreads in the U.S. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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  • Detroit officials announced they were restoring water to thousands of homes and offering a moratorium on residential water shutoffs as the coronavirus spreads in the U.S.

The COVID-19 coronavirus infection rate of Detroit is among the nation's highest — exceeded only by the greater New York City area and New Orleans.

That's according to an explosive report published Wednesday by Bridge magazine.

Nearly a third of all of the state's positive coronavirus cases are in Detroit, according to the report, even though the Detroit has less than 10 percent of the state’s population. Detroit’s coronavirus rate is 83 cases per 100,000 residents, nearly five times the statewide rate and more than double Oakland County's, which has the state's next highest rate. Nationwide, Wayne County's rate is the 13th highest.

There are a number of factors at play here, including Detroit's high poverty rate.

“The city is full of people who are poor and marginalized. It’s the densest part of Michigan, and Detroiters in general are less healthy,” Abdul El-Sayed, the city's former health director, told Bridge.

Detroit’s unemployment rate in January was 8.8 percent — nearly double the state average, and the median income for city residents is $29,000. That means it's harder for residents to heed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive order calling on Michiganders to stay at home for the next three weeks to curb the spread of the virus.

Another factor is the fact that at least 2,500 Detroit homes have had their water service shut off due to delinquent bills. Health officials say the best way to fight the virus is frequent hand washing. Though the city offered to restore water service at no cost at the outset of the coronavirus crisis, it had only restored water service to some 679 households within two weeks. There could be another 5,000 homes without running water, according to the report.

Worse, Michigan ranks near the bottom of the nation, 43rd, when it comes to public health funding.

“This is what happens when you create a system built on austerity,” El-Sayed told Bridge.

In response, the City of Detroit is ramping up testing, setting up a drive-through testing facility at the State Fairgrounds in the hopes of testing 400 people a day. The facility is set to open Friday.

The testing is open to residents of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb County, but it's by appointment only. Patients need to call their doctor first and get a testing order. They can then call the Coronavirus Community Care Network at 313-230-0505 from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Sunday.

More information is available here.

According to Crain's, Dan Gilbert's Quicken Loans has stepped up to handle the logistics of the drive-through testing center.

As of Wednesday afternoon Michigan had 2,295 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 43 deaths, while Detroit had 705 confirmed cases and 13 deaths.

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