Officials in Detroit are putting together plans to knock on doors across the 139-square-mile city to convince residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Detroit expects by the end of April to have crews start visiting homes to speak with residents about the importance of protecting themselves from the virus with vaccinations and how to sign up to receive the shots, The Detroit News reported.
Despite drive-up vaccinations at a downtown convention center, mass vaccinations at Ford Field and Saturday vaccinations at churches, only 22% of Detroit residents have received at least one vaccine dose compared to 38% for all of Michigan, according to Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services.
Ford Field is a federally selected regional mass vaccination site where 6,000 doses a day will be administered for two months.
Efforts in Detroit, which is about 80% Black, mirror other parts of the country where African Americans have been more hesitant than whites to get vaccinated for the virus.
"We’re going to knock on every residential door in the city, making sure every Detroiter knows how to make an appointment,” Victoria Kovari, an executive assistant to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, told The Detroit News.
The initial outreach is expected to last six to seven weeks. Workers will go to some of the poorer parts of the city two or three times by mid-September.
"The only way that we’re going to beat COVID-19 is to significantly expand our vaccination efforts,” city Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair said Monday.
About a year ago, Detroit was struggling to bring the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the city down. Mayor Mike Duggan offered free drive-up testing and pleaded with residents to wear masks and maintain a safe distance from each other. Along with statewide shutdown orders by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, those steps were credited with a rapid drop in numbers until a surge in recent weeks.
Daily COVID-19 cases in Detroit soared from 37 on Feb. 13 to 425 on March 30.
The Michigan health department reported 7,819 new cases statewide Thursday and 73 deaths.
The state remained No. 1 in the U.S. for new cases over a seven-day period: More than 49,000, or 492 per 100,000 people, the federal government reported.
Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan said it was postponing some surgeries due to “extremely high hospital occupancy.”
The head of surgery, Dr. Justin Dimick, made an urgent plea to Whitmer on Twitter.
“Entire state is high-risk. Bars and restaurants are open. People are out and about. No new restrictions. We need some help,” Dimick said.
Whitmer, a Democrat, has said she does not plan to tighten restrictions. She has blamed the virus surge on pandemic fatigue, which has people moving around more, as well as more contagious variants.
Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Michigan.