Why COVID-19 Is Spreading Through Detroit Faster Than Almost Anywhere Else

There are many factors, but poverty and inequality are likely drivers according to journalists covering the spread in Detroit.

The novel coronavirus is sweeping through the nation and throughout the state of Michigan. But one area of the state is being hit particularly hard.

“I think we’ve got to brace ourselves that these numbers are just going to continue to climb. They’ve doubled almost every three days.” – Mike Wilkinson, Bridge Magazine reporter

The rate of spread in Detroit is faster than just about anywhere else in the U.S. There are various factors playing into this, and one of the biggest is the sheer number of people living in poverty in the city.

Bridge Magazine recently took a deep dive into the causes and impact of Detroit’s struggle with COVID-19.

Click on the player above to hear reporters Anna Clark and Mike Wilkinson, and community organizer Justin Onwenu talk about the impact of coronavirus in Detroit.


Mike Wilkinson is a reporter with Bridge Magazine and one of the reporters working on its coverage of the impact of COVID-19 in the city of Detroit.

“I think the dire warnings coming out of the White House and other places, the CDC, regarding Detroit, I think we’ve got to brace ourselves that these numbers are just going to continue to climb. They’ve doubled almost every three days,” says Wilkinson. “I don’t think we’re near the peak in Detroit…And I think the numbers here, frankly, are going to frighten some people within the next week and a half.”

Anna Clark is a Detroit-based journalist and author. She’s also working on this reporting for Bridge. “As we strip down our society to its essential services, it really forces a question — what is essential service of a city? What do we expect if nothing else? And it turns out it’s water, it’s food, it’s shelter, it’s safety — these basic means of survival are what we need,” she says on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson. “And a lot of people — a lot of people — do not have access to that, have not had access to that for a long time.”

Justin Onwenu is a community organizer at Sierra Club and one of the founders of the Metro Detroit COVID 19 Support Facebook group which currently has more than 7,000 members.

“We wanted to make sure to find a way to connect people to resources, make sure people know what’s going on in their community,” says Onwenu. “This virus has shown that we can’t continue to operate in this it’s-my-community-and-my-community-only type of mindset. I think people are recognizing the importance of solidarity — and not just solidarity because it’s the right thing to do, but solidarity in the way that we’re interconnected and that we’re dependent on each other. The public health in your community is the public health in my community in a lot of ways.”

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date

WDET is here to keep you informed on essential information, news and resources related to COVID-19.

This is a stressful, insecure time for many. So it’s more important than ever for you, our listeners and readers, who are able to donate to keep supporting WDET’s mission. Please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • Detroit Today
    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.