Coronavirus update: Delaware targets June 1 for phase one reopening

Delaware is on target to start the first phase of removing the coronavirus restrictions on June 1.

Nurses stand at a COVID testing area

Nurses with ChristianaCare wait for the next person to be tested for coronavirus during a free drive-through area at the Riverfront complex in downtown Wilmington, Delaware on Friday, March 13, 2020. (Butch Comegys for WHYY)

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Delaware has 6,111 cases of the coronavirus as of Friday afternoon, an increase of 172 since yesterday.

The Division of Public Health reported another 11 deaths today, bringing the total number of fatalities in the state to 213. The number of people being treated in Delaware hospitals is up by four to 289.

Sussex County still leads the state in cases with 2,936. That’s equal to about 154 cases per 10,000 residents. By comparison, New Castle County — Delaware’s most populous county — has 37 cases per 10,000 residents.

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June 1 targeted for phase one reopening

The first phase of Delaware’s reopening process will begin on June 1, Gov. Carney said Friday afternoon. The decision was made after state leaders saw a trending decline over the past 14 days in four categories including new hospitalizations and the percentage of positive tests out of those tested.

That June 1 target date is contingent on the state’s ability to get the hotspot in Sussex County under control.

“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,” Carney said. “We need everyone to really lean into the effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in southern Delaware.”

The first phase of reopening looks a lot like the current quarantine situation. Vulnerable residents will still be ordered to shelter in place. Gatherings will be limited to 10 people or less. Schools and programs for young people will remain closed. Restaurants may be able to restart some operations under some strict guidelines that have not yet been identified. Elective surgeries will be allowed to resume. Gyms will be able to reopen as long as they enforce social distancing. Bars will remain closed.

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“If we continue to follow public health guidelines, we have a real shot of getting Delaware moving again starting June 1,” Carney said.

Mass testing of 80,000 per month planned

Since the coronavirus was first discovered in Delaware in early March, the state has tested more than 27,000 people. Under a new plan unveiled by Carney on Friday, the state would test nearly four times that many every month.

“We know that widespread community testing needs to be in place before we can safely reopen our economy,” Carney said. “Finding a reliable supply of reliable tests has been a serious challenge, but we’ve put a plan in place that gets us to the starting line.”

The state bought 200,000 saliva-based tests from Curative, a Los Angeles-based testing company. Those tests are expected to start arriving in Delaware today. Curative has also supplied tests to Los Angeles and Atlanta.

The new testing procedures will prioritize testing for anyone showing coronavirus symptoms or anyone with known exposure to COVID-19. Elderly Delawareans and those who live in low-income communities as well as some front-line essential workers will also get priority for testing.

The state will partner with hospitals and primary care physicians to distribute the tests.

“Our partners in this statewide testing effort will help us quickly identify Delawareans who need COVID-19 testing and prevent the spread of the disease,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health. “This new testing program is a significant expansion of our current testing efforts, and it’s designed to keep all Delawareans safe and healthy by helping us to understand where and how much viral activity is occurring in our state.”

Carney has said expanded testing is one measure that must be in place before the state can start to roll back restrictions on businesses and individuals. Another prerequisite for reopening is more contract tracing capability. Carney says details of plans for tracing the virus will be announced next week.

Delaware businesses can survive 12 weeks, survey says

In a survey of nearly 300 Delaware businesses, owners say their firms can hold on for an average of about 12 weeks during the coronavirus shutdown.

This is the third survey conducted by the Delaware Prosperity Partnership since Carney issued the stay-at-home order. The DPP is a public/private partnership designed to help grow businesses in Delaware.

The survey also found that 61% of businesses applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, but less than half of them were able to secure funding. Another 44% have pending applications.

The average funding was nearly $400,000, allowing companies to hire back or retain more than 2,700 employees.

“In addition to the qualitative information DPP is gathering by hearing firsthand from businesses throughout Delaware, the quantitative survey helps inform how we can best support businesses as Delaware navigates its way to full recovery,” said Kurt Foreman, DPP president and CEO.

The companies that responded reported their supply chains were mainly intact. Companies indicated they were able to ship and receive more than 78% of goods and services, up from about 70% in the second survey.

Delaware chefs host online show to benefit Food Bank

Many people have taken to the kitchen to try new recipes during this quarantine time, and now, some Delaware chefs are now offering lessons on how to make some of their signature dishes.

Debuting on YouTube, the first three episodes of “In the Pantry” features chef Robbie Jester who’s served up meals at Stone Balloon Ale House, Limestone BBQ and Bourbon and Full Circle Food; , sisters Angie and Rous Robles from My Sister’s Fault; and married couple Nate Farrar and Elaina Leshock from the Bellefonte Café.

The videos, produced by Short Order in Wilmington, are available for free on YouTube, but viewers are encouraged to support the Food Bank of Delaware.

“We’re all facing so many challenges during this pandemic. Everyone. But many of us are struggling to meet our most basic needs. The Food Bank of Delaware is one of the organizations directly supporting the people hit hardest by this, and they are going to need our continued support for some time to come,” said Zach Phillips, founder and CEO of Short Order. “We hope that they’re fun and useful, but also that they serve as a reminder of this continuing need.”

Jester shows how to make restaurant-style burgers, while the Robles sisters bake what’s described as a “healthy(ish)” chocolate cake. Farr and Leshock put together vegan quesadillas in their episode.

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