LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Michigan’s test positivity rate is increasing — and it’s now above the World Health Organization’s recommended 5.0%.
The state health department today reported 2,909 new COVID-19 cases reported since Saturday, Oct. 17 with 21 new deaths. Combined, Sunday and Monday’s average number of new confirmed cases is 1454 per day.
On May 12, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) advised governments that before reopening, rates of positivity in testing (ie, out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive for COVID-19) of should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days.
The last time the COVID-19 7-day average positivity rate was 5.0% and above was early September.
The rate of positivity is an important indicator because it can provide insights into whether a community is conducting enough testing to find cases. If a community’s positivity is high, it suggests that that community may largely be testing the sickest patients and possibly missing milder or asymptomatic cases. A lower positivity may indicate that a community is including in its testing patients with milder or no symptoms.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is launching new partnerships with Walgreens and the Michigan Primary Care Association to offer 77 new, free COVID-19 test sites statewide, bringing the total number of state-supported, free test sites to nearly 100.
“Cost should never be a barrier to Michiganders who need health care, including COVID-19 testing,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Containing the pandemic requires robust, easily accessible, free testing – and this is a big step in the right direction.”
Michiganders can find the free test sites on the state’s locator. Sites operate in all regions of the state to ensure increased access to free testing.
“We are pleased to partner with Walgreens and the Michigan Primary Care Association to increase access to testing in Michigan, said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “As we are seeing rising cases and hospitalizations across the state, it is so critical that everyone who needs a test, gets a test. This includes anyone who is sick or has been close to anyone who has been sick.”
The new partnership with Walgreens has expanded its COVID-19 testing operations to 36 locations throughout the state. Testing at Walgreens’ sites is available by appointment only and is provided through existing pharmacy drive-thru lanes. When patients arrive, pharmacy staff walk them through a self-administration of a COVID-19 test. To make an appointment, visit Walgreens.com/COVID19Testing.
“The opening of these sites is part of Walgreens’ ongoing commitment to the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve, and to provide greater access to testing across the state of Michigan,” said Kevin Schmidt, Walgreens regional vice president. “Walgreens has a long history of stepping up to support our customers and communities in times of need, and we’re pleased to be working in collaboration with Michigan health officials on this effort.”
Michigan is also expanding its partnership with the Michigan Primary Care Association, the association of federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in the state. FQHCs already offer low-cost COVID-19 testing and these newest efforts will ensure patients do not face costs for testing at 47 locations. FQHCs typically serve low-income or socially vulnerable areas, providing a vital source of quality medical care.
“Michigan’s community health centers are thrilled to partner with MDHHS to provide greater access to COVID-19 testing at no cost,” said Dennis Litos, interim chief executive officer of the Michigan Primary Care Association. “Reducing barriers for Michiganders to receive critical health care like COVID-19 testing is at the heart of health centers’ mission.”
MDHHS already launched 20 free neighborhood test sites, which continue to operate in Albion, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Ecorse, Flint, Grayling, Lansing, Niles, Roseville, Saginaw and Wayne.
Federal law requires that private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid cover medically necessary COVID-19 tests without any out-of-pocket costs for patients. However, some tests may not be considered medically necessary by insurers, such as screening of asymptomatic individuals. Free test sites may still collect patient insurance information and attempt to bill insurance first. Costs not covered by insurance will be covered by state funding. Patients will not be responsible for these costs.