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Detroit City Officials Urge Residents to Get Vaccinated Ahead of Holidays Amid COVID-19 Surge

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Much like the rest of the state, Detroit is seeing a rise of COVID-19 hospitalizations. City health officials are urging caution ahead of the winter holidays. 

Mayor Mike Duggan says Detroit has 256 hospital beds filled with COVID-19 patients. He says that rate doubled over the last three weeks. 

“It [the hospitalization rate] doubles again in the next three weeks, we’re going to see the most serious problem we’ve had since the spring of 2020.” —Mayor Mike Duggan

“It if doubles again in the next three weeks, we’re going to see the most serious problem we’ve had since the spring of 2020,” he says, adding that the spike isn’t a surprise because people are spending more time indoors due to colder weather.

“Statewide, this is the highest rate of infection we have had,” he says. “In the city of Detroit, not quite to our peak, but I would suspect in a week or two, Detroit will exceed that, as well.”

Michigan hospitals reported about 3,800 coronavirus patients at the start of the week, with 20% in intensive care units, numbers that approach the bleakest days of the pandemic’s 2020 start. The state had a seven-day new-case rate of 616 per 100,000 people Monday, highest in the nation.

Most eligible residents in Detroit have not gotten the shot. According to city data, nearly 43% of residents have received at least one dose, compared to nearly 71% statewide.

“If you’re in a situation where you’re interacting with a lot of people and you don’t know people’s vaccination status, getting tested weekly or every other week makes a lot of sense,” says acting medical director Dr. Robert Dunne. “Because we know from the entire pandemic that 25 to 30% of people that are infected have no symptoms.”

Federal eligibility for the vaccine has been expanded to anyone over 5 years old, and the shots are available at all city-run vaccination sites. Anyone who is six months out from their initial vaccination shots can get a booster.

Dunne says wearing masks indoors helps, too. 

“Multiple people coming in from out of town creates a situation that it’s much more likely for people to be infected,” he says. 

Detroit Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair Razo says she’s limiting her exposure during her holiday gatherings. 

“I do plan to celebrate with my immediate family. It’s going to be really small and all of us will get tested.” 

She says people should get tested 72 hours before they meet with friends and family for holiday activities and to gather in conditions unsuitable for coronavirus transmission.

“If possible, celebrate outdoors,” says Fair Razo. “I know we’re in Michigan so it’s a little cold outside but if you do celebrate, try to celebrate outside or in well-ventilated areas.”  

Daily COVID-19 cases have been on the rise since late summer, with 51 reported on Aug. 1 and 408 reported on Nov. 15.

Statewide, a daily average of about 5,669 new confirmed cases were reported Saturday through Monday.

Michigan has had more than 1.25 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 23,300 deaths from the disease since the start of the pandemic.

Detroit has had more 67,500 confirmed cases and 2,504 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the city’s health department.

No Vaccine Mandate for City

While Detroit officials are encouraging residents to get vaccinated before the winter holidays, they’re reluctant to impose a vaccine mandate. 

Duggan planned to announce a mandate for many city employees ahead of Thanksgiving. But the decision has yet to come. Duggan says conversations with the city’s union workers haven’t happened.  

“I made an absolute promise to the union leaders in this city for the last year and a half that anything we did, we would do together sitting down and talking,” he says. 

Duggan says he’d like the mayor’s office to establish a “COVID-safe zone” by documenting employees’ vaccination status before they return to work, but hasn’t done so yet because “you just can’t have one standard in Hamtramck, one in Detroit and one in Ferndale.” 

Detroit also does not have a mask mandate for city employees. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.