Correction: In a previous version of this story IPR inaccurately reported that 22 people tested positive for COVID-19 and 14 were asymptomatic, as earlier reported to IPR by the Northwest Michigan Health Services, Inc. Please read the following story for the accurate information.
More COVID-19 testing is available in Northwest Lower Michigan, even for those without symptoms.
Northwest Michigan Health Services, Inc. (NMHSI) and Benzie-Leelanau Health Department announced Friday, May 8 that COVID-19 testing is available for anyone, regardless of symptoms.
“NMHSI has been doing testing at two sites in Traverse City and in Shelby. We have been offering asymptomatic people under a standing order since last Tuesday — so for one week now,” Gwen Williams, spokesperson for Northwest Michigan Health Services, said in an email, correcting the numbers. “In our TC site last week we did 97 tests with 82 negative and 14 pending results – only one positive.
At the clinic’s Shelby site last week they gave 48 tests and 32 came back negative, nine were positive and seven are pending, according to Williams’ email on Tuesday.
As of Tuesday evening, 373 people tested positive for COVID-19 in northwest lower Michigan, according to the state's tracking site.
Testing is being offered at the Northwest Michigan Health Services clinic in Traverse City to anyone interested, she says. Since testing expanded to anyone in the general public, they’ve tested random people throughout the region who decided they wanted a test or feared they were exposed in some way.
“You don’t have to be an essential worker to get tested without symptoms. If you’re just someone who's been out in the public and is worried about it, and wants to get tested, then you can get tested too,” says Williams.
She, and others, expect to see an uptick in cases up north.
“We know that the virus can spread even when people don’t have any symptoms,” Heidi Britton, CEO of Northwest Michigan Health Services, Inc., said in a statement. “We have tried to make the process as easy as possible to (get) more people tested.”
The increase in testing is due to a partnership between the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service (MDHHS) and 11 community health centers across the state to expand testing to the general public.
Dr. Timothy Lambert, medical director for Northwest Michigan Health Services noted in a statement that prior lack of testing made it hard to determine how much the disease had spread.
“We are hopeful that with Michigan’s relaxed testing criteria and the increased availability of testing we will be better able to recognize the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community and decrease person to person spread of this disease,” Lambert said in a statement.
If you are interested in getting tested for COVID-19; call the COVID testing appointment hotline at 231-642-5292
Northwest also made a video showing the drive through testing process that you can view here.
The cost of the test is covered by most private health insurance companies. For anyone paying in cash, the test costs $100. However, Northwest Michigan Health Services offers a sliding fee scale to make sure the test is affordable for everyone.
As tests come in, all positive cases, symptomatic and asymptomatic, are reported to the health department for contact tracing and county reporting.