For the first time today, Gov Carney identified a targeted date for the first phase in the reopening of Delaware’s economy.
Carney extended his State of Emergency by two weeks, setting a Phase 1 target date of June 1. Restaurants and retailers will be able to serve a limited number of customers starting on that date.
However, he stopped short of opening Delaware’s beaches, saying hot spots in Sussex continue to pose too great a risk.
Also this afternoon, Carney announced a significant expansion to the statewide testing program, including the purchase of 200,000 testing kits, which began arriving today.
Carney said the state will continue to take interim steps toward reopening between now and June 1. But he did not elaborate on what those measures might be.
Hair salons and retailers were allowed to reopen today under strict guidelines, including curbside-only business for shops and department stores.
Carney said today that part of the reason for taking the interim steps was for him “to see how they work and whether people social distancing observe the guidelines.”
Speaking of recent calls with business owners and members of the Delaware Restaurant Association, Carney said, “Anxiety is growing. And I am I personally conscious of that and factor that into the decision making that’s underway and incorporating that balance between our objectives for public health,” he said.
“The good news is our numbers in New Castle and Kent counties continue to move in the right direction. That means Delawareans are doing their part. They’ve stayed at home and practiced social distancing,” he said.
Carney deviates from the White House plan to reopen economy
Until today, Carney had been closely tracking the White House’s “Opening Up America Again” plan, which calls for 28 days of declining cases of COVID-19 before shops and restaurants could reopen.
“We are kind of modifying a little bit the guidelines that we received from the White House Task Force and the CDC in taking some interim steps leading up to Phase 1. And as we move from Phase1 to Phase 2, we’ll be making a determination based on the situation on the ground,” he said.
Elements of Carney’s Phase 1 reopening plan:
- Restaurants and large venues could reopen but would need to follow strict guidelines
- People could gather but would be limited to 10 individuals
- Gyms could reopen under strict physical distancing and sanitation guidelines
- Elective surgeries could resume
- People could return to work in phases
- School and youth activities would remain closed
- Bars would remain closed
- No visits to senior living facilities and hospitals
The data behind today’s decision
Carney showed several data sets in his press briefing which appear to offer encouraging news.
He first focused on Sussex County, where overall trending is down. With nearly 3,000 individuals confirmed positive, Sussex has 50% of all cases.
“Even with the increase in positive cases brought on by increased testing there, the county is not trending up as state health officials would have expected,” he said.
“And our hospitalization rate as a percentage of those testing positive is actually trending lower than our estimates, and that’s a really good thing,” he said.
New Castle County’s COVID-19 trend is flattening, he said.
What about the beaches?
Carney said COVID-19 hot spots in Sussex County, especially along the Route 113 corridor, continue to give state health officials concern.
“Because of the ongoing threat in Sussex County, we are not in a position yet to open Delaware’s beaches or remove restrictions on short-term rentals and out-of-state travelers. We need everyone to really lean into the effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in southern Delaware,” he said.
New statewide testing program will more than quadruple efforts
The Delaware Division of Public Health in conjunction with local hospitals have been testing over 4000 individuals per week.
But Governor John Carney announced a significant expansion of Delaware’s statewide testing program for COVID-19, which will allow the state to conduct 80,000 monthly.
“We have done a lot of work to identify what’s the best [testing] strategy, knowing that we need to get more tests out there in the community. We need to especially focus on our more vulnerable communities, our low-income communities,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health.
Primary care physicians and employers will conduct COVID testing
Rattay said state health officials will call on primary care physicians, federally qualified health centers, pharmacies and employers in the state to help meet the demand for increased testing.
And she said symptomatic and asymptomatic people will be tested in a variety of places throughout the state.
“So testing is going to look very different in the upcoming weeks and months in comparison to how it has been looking,” she said.
Today Delaware crossed a new milestone, as more than 6,000 have now tested positive in the state. Hospitalizations remain below 300. Up to date dashboard information can be found here: https://coronavirus.delaware.gov.