Macomb County is utilizing the former Baker College site on Gratiot Avenue as its new COVID-19 testing site, starting  Dec. 14.

Macomb County is utilizing the former Baker College site on Gratiot Avenue as its new COVID-19 testing site, starting Dec. 14.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Macomb County moves COVID-19 testing site to Gratiot

Health director says vaccine is important to curb future cases

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published December 15, 2020

 Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel encourages public health personnel to aid in testing and future vaccination efforts.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel encourages public health personnel to aid in testing and future vaccination efforts.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Vehicles will drive up and get tested, just like at the former location in Mount Clemens.

Vehicles will drive up and get tested, just like at the former location in Mount Clemens.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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MACOMB COUNTY — On Dec. 14, Macomb County began utilizing an empty building to provide a centralized site for COVID-19 testing.

The county relocated its testing site at the former county juvenile court building on Rose Street in Mount Clemens, now implementing testing mechanisms at the former Baker College campus site south of 15 Mile Road on Gratiot Avenue, in Clinton Township.

Free testing will be offered to the public between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with individuals not requiring appointments nor a physician’s note. As was the case at the former Mount Clemens site, individuals must wear masks and remain in their vehicles throughout the entire process.

The former site administered as many as 800 tests daily, with an average hovering around 500 tests.

Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon said the county reached out to him about a new testing site. He mentioned the vacant Baker College property while also providing information on other sites available—such as the former Kroger location on Groesbeck Highway, north of Metropolitan Parkway.

“I thought this was just an excellent opportunity for them to clean this site up,” Cannon said. “When we walked in here, it was debris all over. It looked like it was going to start deteriorating very rapidly, and I didn’t want that.

“I want this to be a site that somebody wants to come in and buy and renovate permanently. The short term is good, this is a great use for this building.”

During a Dec. 11 press conference, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said the decision was partly due to a shift in weather, providing testers and citizens with more comfort.

It also coincides with the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. Macomb County is working with its neighbors to the north, including St. Clair, Sanilac and Lapeer counties, to store Pfizer vaccines in “ultra-freezers” that stay as cold as 100 degrees below.

Currently, the county has three freezers and is planning to acquire two more. Between approximately 1,000 and 2,000 vaccines will be received in the first wave, with the county utilizing the Verkuilen Building as a distribution site as other sites are being explored.

Hackel said it would be a “tiered process” based on input from local officials and those on the frontlines, with the county’s approximate 1,800 EMS workers mentioned as being part of the first allotment.

Hospital systems will have their own allotments, while contracted pharmacy partners like CVS and Walgreens will be part of providing the vaccine to county citizens, starting with the most vulnerable.

When asked whether he would formally encourage citizens to vaccinate, Hackel said, “people need to listen to health professionals rather than the politicians.”

“I have not seen a federal, state or local standard that requires anyone to take this (vaccine),” he continued. “I think this is all voluntary at this point in time.”

Macomb County Health Director Bill Ridella said, “the demand of the vaccine is going to be a lot more than the supply, initially.” He did encourage people to vaccinate.

“Vaccinations is one of the greatest public health accomplishments in the last century,” Ridella said. “Many, many people have been vaccinated. It prevents disease. … My perspective is that vaccines work and this particular vaccine is going to be very important in getting to the level of preventing future infections with COVID-19, getting to that immunity we need as a community so that we can prevent transmission.”

St. Clair County Board Chair Jeff Brohm said that about 30% of his county’s residents work in Macomb County, saying “it’s important for St. Clair County that Macomb County does well.”

Dr. Annette Mercatante, the St. Clair County medical officer, said the vaccine process requires everyone to work together.

“This is a great effort, one of the largest vaccination processes we’ve had in this country, ever, and one of the most important,” she said. “I want to make a shoutout to all our public health workforce: They are working tirelessly and they’re tired, but they are committed to this process. We will do everything to provide the most efficient, coordinated distribution of this vaccine that is possible.”

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