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Coronavirus update: Delaware announces first steps to reopen

A man walks on Market Street in Wilmington, Del. wearing protective gloves on Friday, March 27, 2020. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

A man walks on Market Street in Wilmington, Del. wearing protective gloves on Friday, March 27, 2020. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

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Delaware now has 5,371 cases of the novel coronavirus as of Tuesday afternoon. That’s an increase of 83. Another five people have died from the virus for a total of 187 fatalities. There are 284 people being treated in Delaware hospitals.

First steps to relax restrictions on Delaware businesses

Starting Friday, small retailers will be allowed to open for business using curbside pick up. It’s the first step the state has taken to relax the rules put in place in mid-March.

Businesses allowed to reopen for curbside service include the following:

  • Clothing stores
  • Shoe stores
  • Sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments
  • Book, periodical, music stores
  • Department stores
  • Tobacco and Vape
  • Other general merchandise
  • Office supply, stationery, and gift stores
  • Used merchandise stores
  • Consumer goods rental

The change goes into effect at 8 a.m. Friday.

“I understand how hard this has been for Delawareans across our state. We’ve tried to find ways to ease the pain without compromising public health,” said Governor Carney. “But even these limited steps allowing businesses to offer additional services will require strict compliance with safety standards, especially social distancing.”

Hair salons will be allowed to reopen only to serve workers of essential businesses. Both employees and customers must remain masked and no more than two appointments at a time.

“We cannot afford to go backwards and see new cases and hospitalizations spike,” Carney said. “Getting used to a new normal won’t be easy, but this is the first step to being able to reopen our economy.”

Testing for all long-term care residents, workers

Four of the five latest deaths in Delaware from COVID-19 were long-term care residents. Those living in nursing homes and other facilities account for the majority of fatalities in the state.

Now, the Division of Public Health will begin testing all residents and workers at long-term care facilities. DPH will provide facilities with test kits and training on how to administer them. Part of the state’s requirements for starting to reopen is increased testing, especially for the most vulnerable populations.

“Residents of long-term care facilities are extremely vulnerable to complications from the virus that causes COVID-19 due to chronic health conditions,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. “We are incredibly pleased to be able to support this testing strategy which will enable us to help the facilities better identify outbreaks

Once test results start coming in, DPH will offer recommendations on how the facilities can better protect both residents and workers.

New help for workers denied unemployment

Independent contractors, self-employed workers and others can file claims for new unemployment benefits as a result of the coronavirus shut down. The pandemic unemployment assistance program will start accepting applications for assistance on May 11.

Under federal guidelines, only workers who have applied for traditional unemployment payment and have been denied will be eligible for the new program.

There are restrictions on who is eligible including direct impacts from coronavirus. That includes workers who have the virus or are for someone who does, or they are unable to work because the virus restrictions have shut down their business.

The Delaware Dept. of Labor says workers eligible under the pandemic unemployment assistance program could get anywhere from $733 to $1,000 per week.

Eligible workers will be able to apply for payments that could be retroactive to the week of March 15 when Gov. John Carney issued his state of emergency executive order.

Free phones help domestic violence victims stay in touch

More than 100 free phones are available to help connect victims of domestic violence to the support they need. The Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence will distribute the phones in cooperation with the state Dept. of Justice.

“You don’t need to stay home if home isn’t safe,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “Our number one priority is saving lives, and connecting survivors with these cell phones puts a resource in their hands that can help them start to rebuild the life they deserve.”

The free phones can give victims a chance to talk to someone or make a call for help without their activity being monitored or listed in an abuser’s monthly phone bill.

Phones will be distributed throughout the state to victim advocates and made available to victims as needed.

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