Thursday virus roundup: 25 Detroit cops sick, 398 quarantined | Michigan cases top 2,800 | Highland Park chief in ICU

March 26, 2020, 3:20 PM

Mayor Mike Duggan revealed some startling data at his Thursday news briefing. In the Detroit Police Department, 25 officers have tested positive for coronavirus and 398 are out on quarantine. In the next few days, 130 are expected back on the job, but now, every officer is having their temperature taken before their shift starts. 

Duggan also emphasized that the city's drive-through testing facility, which opens Friday, will not see patients without both an appointment and a doctor's prescription. He also said that asymptomatic individuals -- that is, those who have no symptoms -- should not be tested. It could lead to false negative results.

"The numbers continue to be very disturbing," Duggan said. "We need to step up our efforts to create space with each other."

Michigan cases exceed 2,800

Today's somber statistics from Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services show 564 new diagnoses of the COVID-19 severe lung disease and 17 deaths since Wednesday.

That pushes the number of confirmed cases to 2,856 and 60 deaths. The new patient total is up 24.4% in a day, though not all are hospitalized.

(Table: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services)

The cumulative tally presumably includes people who no longer have severe symptoms or are recovering. The rolling total grows daily, and only those who die aren't counted any longer.  

Helpful perspective is provided Thursday in The Atlantic magazine under the headline: “The Fog of Pandemic:”

Confirmed cases are a function of confirmed tests. After a tragically late start, U.S. testing capacity has doubled in the past week.

Is the U.S. currently experiencing rapid growth in coronavirus cases, or rapid growth in coronavirus testing, or both? … We don’t know yet, and it will be a while before we do.

Among the new cases, 146 are in Detroit, 121 are elsewhere in Wayne, 125 are in Oakland and 66 are in Macomb. Fourteen of the past day's 17 fatalities are Metro Detroiters.

Overall, the full statewide tally includes 851 Detroiters and 1,553 patients from other parts of the three-county region. Fifty-two of the 60 deaths are Metro Detroiters. 

The table above shows age ranges for diagnosed patients statewide.

'A biological tsunami' -- Beaumont's top exec

With two major local health systems at or near capacity with COVID-19 patients, and the peak of the outbreak still not reached, the CEO of one states the obvious: This is "our worst nightmare," the Free Press reports:

Describing the novel coronavirus pandemic as a "biological tsunami," Beaumont Health President and CEO John Fox told the Free Press Wednesday that the hospital system is adding about 100 new patients per day who have COVID-19.

That pace has continued for the last three days.

"What we all need to remember is that we got our first patient two weeks ago," he said. "So this is coming on hard and fast. This is definitely a biological tsunami."

While Beaumont has so far been able to keep up with the demand for ventilators, the COVID-19 patient count is growing by "100 a day" and has already transferred three patients to outlying hospitals to ease the load locally. Fox urged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to use her executive powers to force other systems not at capacity to take patients, as could happen during a mass casualty incident. 

Additionally, the city has looked at other large venues to set up as overflow sites, should they be needed. The Detroit News reports these include the TCF Center, formerly Cobo, or the Pistons practice facility:

Beaumont, Fox said, is looking at scenarios that include adding bed space at Oakland University dormitories. But the problem with using dorm or hotel space to temporarily house patients is those spaces wouldn’t come with access to laboratories or pharmacies, like hospitals do, he said.

Henry Ford Health System CEO Wright Lassiter said the hospital has had conversations with four different facilities about the potential to use large-capacity public spaces for the care of a large number of individuals or to provide hotel accommodations for staff to keep them close by.

Police chief in intensive care

Hilton Napoleon, 66-year-old police chief of Highland Park, entered a hospital two weeks ago and is in intensive care due to the viral lung disease, The Detroit News reports. His younger brother is Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, who says a male cousin  died from the virus last week. (So did a sheriff's commander at the Wayne agency on Wednesday.)

Detroit civil rights figure tests positive

The Rev. Horace Sheffield III, a longtime civil rights activist and pastor of New Destiny Christian Fellowship in Detroit, says Thursday on Facebook that he has tested positive for coronavirus. The 65-year-old father of City Council member Mary Sheffield isn't hospitalized yet, but tells The Detroit News he may seek admission. "I'm not playing with this. ... This is serious stuff," says Sheffield, who visited New York City in mid-March 

Detroit state lawmaker diagnosed

Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit, becomes the first known state legislator diagnosed with the COVID-19 respiratory virus. He was tested last weekend and got a positive result Thursday, The Detroit News says.

The disclosure comes "a little more than a week after he was present during a roughly 12-hour session of the Michigan House" on March 17, when lawmakers approved $125 million for coronavirus response, Beth LeBlanc writes.   

Meijer employee tests positive

Service workers, many of them paid by the hour in jobs that put them in contact with large number of people all day, are among the most vulnerable to contracting the novel coronavirus. This week, a worker at a Warren Meijer store on Mound Road tested positive, the Free Press reports. The store has since undergone a deep cleaning, company officials say: 

“We want our customers and team members to feel confident being in our stores and will continue to take appropriate action to ensure the health and safety of those who walk through our doors,” the company said in a press release.

Meijer is in contact with health officials and has informed its team members, according to the release. The worker positive for coronavirus and anyone who could be identified as high-risk in the situation will be paid through the company’s pay continuation program.

Additionally, an Amazon worker in Romulus has also tested positive, WXYZ reports. Workers there say they need more protection from transmission:

Alan Card Jr. a robotic technician said he's worked at the distribution center since October. He claims social distancing is impossible inside the facility, where he comes into contact with hundreds of coworkers each day.

"I come in contact with 300 to 500 people per day on my shift," Card said. "We have limited supply of mask and gloves."

Hundreds of employees and contractors have signed a petition urging the retail giant to do more to protect its staff.

Michigan's unemployment claims soar

Michigan's unemployment claims shattered records last week, with 127,810 filing March 15-21, Crain's Detroit Business reports. The totals are the highest single week of unemployment claims in modern history. In January 2009, during the Great Recession, 77,000 filed for unemployment in Michigan.

Thieves swipe TP, sanitizer from state park

If you're planning a springtime trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, pack your own toilet paper. And keep an eye on it. 

Thieves have ransacked the park's restrooms for toilet paper and hand sanitizer, items made scarce by hoarders. Park management responded by shutting all the restrooms. The Associated Press reports:

Park Superintendent Scott Tucker said vandals unrolled entire rolls of toilet paper and broke plastic dispensers in the restrooms to steal bags full of hand sanitizer over the weekend. In response, the park locked all of its restrooms, including rustic vault toilets, on Monday because they lack items needed for visitors to safely use them.

Outdoor spaces, including trails, remain open to the public under the stay-at-home order. (But watch where you step.)

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