Community Testing, Outreach Eyes Nursing Homes, Homeless Shelters

April 16, 2020
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DETROIT – Henry Ford Health System, in partnership with the city of Detroit and its health department, is deploying teams of health care volunteers to conduct rapid testing for the coronavirus at nursing homes and homeless shelters across the city.

Using city vans equipped with testing supplies and personal protective equipment, the mobile teams began this week visiting 26 nursing homes and 20 homeless shelters in the coming days and weeks to test some of the most vulnerable populations at risk for the coronavirus. Detroit was the first U.S. major city to conduct rapid testing for COVID-19 using kits developed by the health care company Abbott, whose kits produce results in about 15 minutes.

Those who test positive will be isolated or quarantined and their health monitored for worsening symptoms.

The testing deployment teams are managed by the Global Health Initiative at Henry Ford, a unique collaboration of regional health care and academic institutions that seek to address some of the most pressing health care issues facing underserved populations in Michigan and internationally. The GHI is headquartered in Tech Town.

“This community outreach campaign can have meaningful impact by quickly identifying those who may be positive and limiting further spread of the virus in these vulnerable populations,” says John Zervos, GHI executive director.

“It takes a village in this kind of crisis and the city and its health department have been phenomenal partners to work with. Together, we’re making a difference.”

Najibah Rehman, M.D., MPH, medical director of the Detroit Health Department, says the partnership between Henry Ford, the city and its health department is “invaluable.” “Our mobile outreach teams are working non-stop to serve our most vulnerable. It is truly a collaborative effort with one goal in mind—to protect and do well for our Detroit community,” Dr. Rehman says.

The deployment teams comprise about 100 volunteers, many of whom are employed by GHI. Others include nurses and medical students from Wayne State University, health care professionals and Detroit EMS and health department personnel. Staffing resources, PPE supply and testing equipment is funded by a $150,000 grant from the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

“We are grateful to the United Way for Southeastern Michigan for their generous grant and supporting this important work being undertaken,” Zervos says.

The deployment teams, who wear the required equipment like hospital health care workers to protect against potential exposure, aim to test about 200 people a day at nursing homes and homeless shelters.

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MEDIA CONTACT: David Olejarz / David.Olejarz@hfhs.org / 313.874.4094