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Detroit Encourages All Essential Workers to Get Tested for Coronavirus

Mayor Mike Duggan is recommending that food service workers receive a drive-through test, even if they do not show symptoms

Hands garnish fish in a restaurant kitchen.
The city is recommending that essential workers like restaurant employees take a novel coronavirus test.
Gerard + Belevender
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

In a press conference on Friday, April 17, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced that the city is now advocating for all essential workers to get tested for COVID-19, including employees at restaurants. Duggan urged employers to arrange for staff to visit the drive-thru testing center at the State Fairgrounds starting Monday, April 20, even if they do not show symptoms, stating that the site will have expanded capacity to provide tests to the local workforce. “We will prioritize restaurants and food handling centers,” Duggan said.

Until now, most testing centers were limited to providing tests mainly to people who were showing symptoms of coronavirus. However, the state has been working to expand its testing to a larger proportion of the population.

Essential workers during Michigan’s stay-at-home order include employees at grocery stores, restaurants, liquor stores, farms, gas stations, government agencies, and more. These workers are particularly at risk of contracting the virus because they work with the public. At least five grocery store workers in Michigan have died from COVID-19 related illnesses.

Detroit, where racial and socioeconomic disparities have resulted in a population with more pre-existing conditions, has been disproportionately impacted by novel coronavirus compared to other parts of the state. As of Sunday, April 19, there were 618 deaths reported in the city and 7,604 confirmed cases.

On Monday, Duggan clarified that employers are responsible for making the call to schedule the testing for their employees. The City of Detroit also has a list of resources available for residents to help manage the novel coronavirus outbreak. Detroiters can take a bus to the State Fairgrounds for a free test. The city has provided a list of physicians are taking new patients even without insurance who can write a prescription for the test. People can call 313-230-0505 to make an appointment for a test at the fairgrounds. There’s also a city hotline at 313-876-4000 for general COVID-19 questions.

Update, April 20, 2:12 p.m.: This story was updated with additional information clarifying that employers must schedule testing for essential workers.

Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the local food industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at

Mayor Duggan Announces Plan to Test Essential Workers in Detroit [Freep]
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