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Coronavirus Update: 1,100 part time workers laid off at Univ. of Delaware

The University of Delaware campus in Newark. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

The University of Delaware campus in Newark. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

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As of Friday afternoon, Delaware officials reported 8,529  cases of the coronavirus, an increase of 143 over yesterday. There have been 322 deaths, 5 more than Thursday’s total. The number of people hospitalized is at 221, one more than yesterday.

University slashes part time employees

Most part time employees at the University of Delaware will be out of work as of June 1. The university announced the plan to cut 1,100 part time positions in a letter sent to the campus community from Jared Aupperle, interim vice president in the Office of Human Resources.

“This difficult decision was made after careful consideration of the University’s financial situation, both as it stands now and as the pandemic continues to take a toll on multiple aspects of our operations,” Aupperle wrote. “The University is projected to experience a $50 million loss in the spring semester, as well as a loss of $40 million or more in the upcoming academic year. These projections necessitated today’s actions.”

The cuts don’t affect adjunct faculty, graduate students, or work-study students.

Earlier this year, UD put in place other efforts to reduce costs, including a salary freeze, suspending new hiring, and cutting travel and discretionary spending.

In early May, some of the university’s top earners, including president Dennis Assanis and football coach Danny Rocco, took a voluntary pay cut.  Assanis took a 10% cut along with provost Robin Morgan and executive vice president John Long. Assanis was paid $965,160 in salary and other compensation for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, according to the school’s most recent tax filing, provided to WHYY by the university.

All members of UD’s senior leadership team, including all vice presidents, deans, chief of police, athletic director and the head football and basketball coaches took voluntary 5% cuts.

CDC funding boost for state lab

In a typical year, Delaware would receive a $1.5 million Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This year, that grant award is $67 million.

The money will be used to hire staff for enhanced laboratory, surveillance, informatics, and other workforce capacities in an effort to strengthen laboratory testing. The funds will also help the state implement advanced technologies for electronic data exchange at the public health lab and improve surveillance and reporting of electronic health data.

“Widespread community testing for COVID-19 and contact tracing are keys to reopening Delaware’s economy safely while protecting our most vulnerable neighbors. These additional federal resources will be a real help in that effort,” said Gov. John Carney.

Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said the state was already enhancing the capability of its labs, but the grant money will help accelerate that process.

In addition to supporting expanded statewide testing and analysis, the grant will assist Delaware in creating a COVID-19 surveillance network to test symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, with additional testing for vulnerable populations.

Contact tracing applications now open

The state is accepting applications for people wanting to work as contact tracers, tracking down people who may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. Job applications will be accepted starting at 5 p.m. Friday night.

“It is really important for us to be able to limit the spread of COVID-19. As we reopen the economy, contact tracing is critical for us to be able to decrease the spread,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Div. of Public Health.

Contact tracers work by getting a list of people a confirmed coronavirus patient may have come in close contact with for longer than 10 minutes. They then follow up with those people and warn them that they may have contracted the virus.

Rattay said the state recognizes some people have concerns about privacy related to the work of contact tracers. She said those workers will not share personal details about who the contact may have been exposed to the virus by or any other personal information.

“It is very important as we roll this out that we protect everyone’s health and everyone’s health information,” she said.

Sussex County flyover planned

Southern Delaware hospital workers will be honored Saturday with a flyover of some vintage aircrafts.

The event, produced by the Delaware Aviation Museum in Georgetown, will feature a B-25 Mitchell Bomber, a P-51 Mustang, and a C-45 from Chorman Aerial Spraying. The flights will cross over Sussex County starting at 11 a.m. The route will take the planes over Beebe, Bayhealth and Nanticoke Hospitals, as well as locations up and down Rt. 1, Rt. 113 and Rt. 13.

The aviation museum has posted a much more detailed route map on its website.

The group is accepting online donations to offset the costs of the flight, with any excess donations being given to first responders.

The planes are scheduled to take off at Delaware Coastal Airport at 11 a.m.

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