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Oakland County announces expanded testing, $12M more for small businesses

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published May 7, 2020

 According to an average seven-day positive COVID-19 case chart from Oakland County, the curve flattened sometime in mid-April, although preventive measures are still required.

According to an average seven-day positive COVID-19 case chart from Oakland County, the curve flattened sometime in mid-April, although preventive measures are still required.

Graphs provided by Oakland County

 The average seven-day deaths due to COVID-19 are now on a decline in Oakland County, according to a chart provided by Oakland County April 30.

The average seven-day deaths due to COVID-19 are now on a decline in Oakland County, according to a chart provided by Oakland County April 30.

OAKLAND COUNTY — On April 30, Oakland County Executive David Coulter announced a multi-pronged update on the county’s latest health and economic efforts in the face of COVID-19.

While the need to contain the spread of the virus remains vital, Coulter shared new charts showing that countywide efforts have “flattened the curve,” which peaked in approximately the middle of April, as reason to be “cautiously optimistic.”

As of 12:31 p.m. May 3, the county reported 7,477 cases of COVID-19, 750 deaths from the virus and a total of 3,927 residents who recovered from COVID-19, which is defined as being symptom-free for 30 days since the onset of symptoms.

“We’re moving our drive-thru testing around the county now,” Coulter said, noting the county’s initial drive-thru testing that began in Pontiac a couple of weeks ago. “Starting today, we’re also doing drive-thru testing in Southfield, and by next week, we’re going to be moving that drive-thru testing around to Pontiac, Southfield and Novi.”

During the first week of testing beginning April 18, Coulter said, the county tested 17,318 people, with 37% of them testing positive. The next week beginning April 27, the county tested almost 23,500 people, with 32% testing positive, he said.

“We also know that the experts in this field will tell us that it’s better to be around 10%, which would mean that you’re really testing the number of people that you need to so you know exactly where the spread is and how to begin to help further isolate it,” Coulter said. “We’re trending in the right direction in terms of testing, but we want that number … to be closer to 10%, and our focus is going to be increasingly on doing that.”

To make an appointment to be tested for COVID-19, call the Oakland County Nurse on Call at (800) 848-5533. Because of the limited availability of tests, testing is currently only available for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, as well as all essential employees.

Coulter also announced a new partnership between the county and local fire departments and EMS providers to conduct testing at independent senior living facilities.

“This partnership is already happening today in West Bloomfield. They’ll be in Southfield later today and tomorrow will be in Birmingham, and we’re going to do this throughout the county,” Coulter said. “This effort is going to continue next week and in the weeks ahead.”

He said the Oakland County Health Division has been meeting regularly with such facilities throughout the pandemic, and the county’s emergency center has also been supplying them with personal protection equipment.

Kathy Forzley, Oakland County Health and Human Services Director, said the county has 137 senior living facilities impacted by COVID-19, including 1,377 cases among residents and 373 cases among staff members.

“Unfortunately, 347 (cases) have resulted in a fatality,” Forzley said. “These are indeed sobering numbers. There is no doubt that, even while implementing best practices, this pandemic has hit these facilities very hard.”

She added that the county only has testing plans with independent senior living facilities, as they are less equipped with the medical staff and resources to adequately address testing needs.

“It’s very essential to identify the presence of asymptomatic residents and staff that may be unknowingly a risk of exposure within their communities, so we’re very hopeful that this testing will be hugely impactful to those facilities,” Forzley said.

Lastly, Coulter announced an additional $12 million of funding — unanimously approved by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners April 29 — for the county’s Small Business Stabilization Fund.

The $12 million will come from the $219 million allocation awarded to Oakland County through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Businesses do not need to reapply for funds, and the $12 million will only benefit those who already applied during the first round, in which $2.3 million was distributed to 800 of the more than 7,300 Oakland County small businesses that applied.

While some businesses received the maximum $10,000, the average grant amounted to between $2,500 and $5,400, depending on location and request, Coulter said.

The county created 12 boards — composed of local chambers of commerce, downtown development authorities and local officials — in 12 zones across the county to distribute funds according to guidelines established by the state.

While the 7,300 small businesses that initially applied requested $80 million, Coulter said he hoped the $12 million would make a large impact.

“It was clear to us we needed to do more,” he said. “Some of these businesses literally need a lifeline now.”

Coulter applauded the county’s small businesses, which make up 93% of the county’s total businesses and are defined as having less than 50 employees, for taking the pandemic seriously, following orders, and going above and beyond to do “the right thing.”

“While the outlook is improving and the charts are encouraging, we have to stay vigilant,” he said. “This pandemic and this crisis is not over, and what we do today and going forward is going to go a long way to how well we address the rest of the pandemic in our state.”

For more information, call the Oakland County COVID-19 Help Hotline at (248) 858-1000 or visit oakgov.com/health.