A multimillion-dollar grant from the CDC will help Delaware significantly expand its statewide testing to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Governor Carney said Friday the state aims to conduct 80,000 test a month. This week alone, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) oversaw the testing of 2,000 individuals. And DEMA Secretary A.J. Schall said test results going forward will be reported “way better than before” — now within 24 to 36 hours.
The state’s approach will include drive-through events open to the public occurring multiple times a week across the state as well as targeted walk-up and drive-through events in areas hosting populations more vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.
Additionally, the state has expanded testing at long term care facilities. DPH reported today that 75% percent of long-term care facilities have initiated testing programs – up from only 15% on Tuesday. And as of June 1, mandatory testing for staff and long term care facilities will be in place across the state.
Testing times and locations will continue to be posted on a new testing calendar on the coronavirus.delaware.gov/testing website several days in advance.
State revenue estimates reduced by $620 million dollars
In his regular Friday press briefing, Carney also addressed looming state budget challenges, managing non-resident visitors to the state beaches and considerations around reopening school in the fall.
Secretary of Finance Mike Jackson joined the briefing, saying that $1.25 billion in federal funds from the stimulus package will be essential in helping the state cover costs related to the pandemic, as revenue estimates for fiscal year 2020 and 2021 have been reduced by $620 million dollars.
Jackson also said that the state’s revenue outlook had improved, which along with reduced expenditures have taken the state from a shortfall to a positive balance. Jackson said that the original FY 2021 budget will have to be reduced by approximately $450 million dollars.
Carney said he would do everything possible to avoid laying off state workers.
“I said it at the last briefing that our number one objective here will be to prevent any layoffs. Whether we’ll be able to do that remains to be seen,” said Carney.
State rolls out “Summer Safely” program
Governor Carney rolled out a new public education campaign today aimed at reinforcing restrictions on the Delaware beaches and efforts to promote social distancing. The campaign will include signage at key locations at the beach, store window decals and roving ‘Beach Ambassadors.’ Other promotional tactics will expand as the summer progresses.
The newly-trained Beach Ambassadors will be prowling the state’s beaches beginning this Memorial Day weekend, looking to encourage appropriate behavior by beachgoers including social distancing and mask-wearing in crowds.
“It’s really important we’re going to be paying very close attention to the situation on the beaches this weekend to learn what works and what doesn’t work,” said Carney.
On schools, Carney said he would await the recommendations of a committee of educators, parents and others about how best to return in the fall, saying testing would be an important part of any plan.
The School Reopening Working Groups meeting planned for yesterday is being rescheduled. The meeting had to be canceled because the number of people who tried to join the call overwhelmed the system.
“I don’t want to prejudge the work of the committee we put together we’ve got experts engaging the public … we know that [testing] is an important part of our public infrastructure,” said Carney.
Carney stresses, ‘thank businesses that have ‘paid the price’’
Gov. Carney reiterated again today that he hears the concerns of businesses which have called on him to reopen the economy sooner than June 1. Earlier this week Sussex legislators wrote a letter to Carney demanding the reopening of businesses, especially beach businesses who could benefit with Memorial Day shoppers, by today.
“I hear every day from business owners in particular, small businesses and workers not been able to go to work, not been able to get revenue, who have paid a big price, frankly, so that the rest of us can be safe. And going forward we all need to thank them.”
There are now 8,529 people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus in Delaware. The Delaware Division of Public Health announced 143 additional positive cases today and the deaths of five new individuals.
The most recent deaths announced today ranged in age from 39 to 90. Four of the individuals had underlying health conditions. Three of the individuals were residents of long-term care facilities.
COVID dashboard by County
New Castle County:
Confirmed cases: 3,132
0.56% infection rate
Confirmed cases: 1,296
0.72% infection rate
Confirmed cases: 4,048
1.73% infection rate
The Delaware Division of Public Health coronavirus dashboard, which is updated every 24 hours, can be found here. https://coronavirus.delaware.gov