Oakland County announces COVID-19 drive-thru testing, mandates facial coverings for essential workers

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published April 14, 2020

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OAKLAND COUNTY — On April 14, Oakland County Executive David Coulter announced that the Oakland County campus in Pontiac will be the county’s first non-hospital drive-thru testing site for COVID-19.

The Nurse on Call hotline will begin taking appointments April 15, and drive-thru testing will ramp up April 16 and 17. During the first two days, testing will be open only to “priority” patients.

Those with priority include first responders, essential business employees, and Pontiac residents who display symptoms of the coronavirus. Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat and diarrhea.

To be screened to make an appointment, call the Oakland County Nurse on Call hotline at (800) 848-5533.

The county will partner with Honor Community Health to provide testing. When patients arrive for their scheduled appointment, health care workers in personal protective equipment — including goggles, masks and gowns — will verify the patient’s identity, conduct a five- to 10-second nasal swab, distribute educational literature and answer questions.

“By offering quick and easy testing, we can ensure our residents are not further spreading this highly contagious virus and that we are continuing to protect our most vulnerable residents throughout our county,” Honor Community Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nik Hemady said.

Testing will be available by appointment from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Officials anticipate administering 50-100 tests in the first two days and approximately 250 tests per day the next week. Results will be expected within 24-48 hours.

Testing currently is available only for symptomatic patients due to the limited availability of testing supplies. In the future, Coulter said, he hopes the county can expand testing to all.

The county campus is located at 1200 N. Telegraph Road, southeast of Dixie Highway. Testing will take place between the Oakland County Circuit Court and the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office.

“Testing is going to be a critical component of slowing the spread of coronavirus. We know that,” Coulter said. “We also know that many of us are frustrated that there hasn't been more robust testing.”

Oakland County Health Officer Leigh-Anne Stafford enacted a public health order, effective midnight April 14, to renew and expand her previous health order, which expired April 14.

The new order mandates that, effective April 27, all essential business employees who provide goods and services and have direct contact with the public — or goods that the public may purchase — must wear facial coverings. The covering should fit snugly over the face and mouth and can be homemade or store bought. 

It also extends required daily screenings of employees reporting to work at essential businesses. Employees must be screened for symptoms of coronavirus, domestic or international travel within the past 14 days, and any close contact within the past 14 days with anyone who has a COVID-19 diagnosis.

If an employee answers “yes” to any of the questions, the health order requires that the employee be excluded from work.

Stafford said individuals may report back to work after seven days of no symptoms; after 14 days have passed since close contact with anyone who has a COVID-19 diagnosis; and after 14 days have passed since any domestic or international travel.

Exceptions, she said, will be made for essential workers, health care workers, workers in infectious control programs, and those vital to move supplies.

“This order removes the social distancing aspects of our previous order, because we believe those are sufficiently covered in the governor’s orders that she released just a few days ago, and I wholeheartedly support the governor’s orders,” Coulter said.

He asked that residents also wear facial coverings compliant with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when going out for essentials, not surgical or N95 masks, which he said need to be preserved for health care workers and first responders.

“This is going to be our way of life for a little while, so we just all need to get used to wearing these,” Coulter said, and demonstrated a Spartan-green face mask. “We still urge people to stay home. That’s still the No. 1 thing you can do.”

As of April 13, Oakland County began reporting its COVID-19 recovery numbers. As defined by the state, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases 30 days out from the onset of illness represent recovery status.

“We think it is very important to share these numbers to support and convey a sense of hope in the community,” Stafford said. “If we follow social distancing, wear our face coverings, restrict our movements and abide by the governor’s stay-at-home orders, we will flatten the curve and move in the right direction.”

Coulter said that as soon as the county’s public health crisis is under control, the county has plans to reinvigorate its economic recovery, but the public health battle has not yet been won.

As of 12:12 p.m. April 14, Oakland County had 5,371 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 361 deaths and 380 cases of recovery from COVID-19.

As of 3 p.m. April 14, Michigan had 27,001 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,768 deaths. As of April 10, the state has a cumulative total of 433 recovered COVID-19 cases.

For more information, visit oakgov.com/covid or call the Oakland County hotline at (248) 848-1000. For health questions, call the Oakland County Nurse on Call at (800) 848-5533.