Del. offers assistance for unemployed workers, small businesses as COVID-19 cases climb to 16

A woman walks across Beech Street after being tested for the coronavirus at the Riverfront complex in downtown Wilmington, Delaware on Friday, March 13, 2020. Christiana Care, Delaware's largest health system, provided the free tests. (Butch Comegys / For WHYY)

A woman walks across Beech Street after being tested for the coronavirus at the Riverfront complex in downtown Wilmington, Delaware on Friday, March 13, 2020. Christiana Care, Delaware's largest health system, provided the free tests. (Butch Comegys / For WHYY)

Updated: 8:00 p.m.

Mayor Mike Purzycki announced Tuesday that a Wilmington Public Works employee has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The employee, who works at the city’s municipal complex on Wilmington Avenue in Southbridge, is in quarantine at home, as are eleven other employees who came in close contact with the person who tested positive.

Purzycki said the municipal complex will be decontaminated tonight.

16 confirmed coronavirus cases in Delaware

Delaware has announced eight additional positive cases of Coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 16.

Seven of the patients are New Castle County residents, six of whom participated in Friday’s drive-through testing event sponsored by Christiana Care where 1,000 residents were tested. One of these individuals is hospitalized, while the others are isolating at home.

The eighth case involves a Sussex County resident who was exposed while traveling.

On Monday, Delaware’s Gov. John Carney ordered restaurants and bars to eliminate dine-in service, and ban events holding more than 50 people through May. The Division of Public Health advises residents to practice social distancing, keeping six feet apart from other people. Residents over 60 and those with chronic health conditions should remain at home, DPH urges.

Anyone who presents symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath should remain at home and contact their physician. Those who have fever and cough, or shortness of breath may be able to get tested for coronavirus upon advice from their doctor.

In addition to social distancing, DPH advises Delaware residents to wash hands frequently for 20 seconds, cough and sneeze into the elbow, and clean surface.

Delawareans with general questions about COVID-19 or their exposure risk can call the Division of Public Health’s Coronavirus Call Center at 1-866-408-1899, or 711 for individuals who are hearing impaired, from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, or email DPHCall@delaware.gov. The DPH Call Center does not have test results. Individuals awaiting test results should wait to hear back from their medical provider.

Help for small businesses

On Monday, Delaware Gov. John Carney ordered restaurants and bars to shut down except for delivery or take-out service. Today, he’s asking the U.S. Small Business Administration to help some of the state’s 25,000 small businesses who may be hurting because of coronavirus.

“We know that the public health restrictions we put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus will hit Delaware’s small business community especially hard,” Carney said. “We will continue to work with the Small Business Administration, and with our congressional delegation and state agencies, to provide relief to those small businesses impacted during this time.”

Carney is asking the SBA to make low-interest loans of up to $2 million per business available to companies and nonprofits that have suffered economically because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Once approved, those loans can be used for payroll or other bills the business or nonprofit is unable to pay because of the virus.

For workers who lose their jobs as a result of the virus, the Delaware Department of Labor is making unemployment funds more flexible.

The new guidelines include:

  • Workers will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if an employer needs to curtail or shut down operations temporarily because of the Governor’s State of Emergency declaration or the coronavirus outbreak.
  • A worker who has been ordered by a medical doctor to self-quarantine as a result, or due to risk of exposure to coronavirus COVID-19 will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
  • Parents or guardians who have been forced to quit or take unpaid leave from their jobs to care for children due to the Governor’s emergency closure of schools will be eligible for benefits.
  • Workers who have been forced to quit or take unpaid leave to care for a loved one who has contracted coronavirus COVID-19 will be eligible for benefits.
  • If a worker falls ill to COVID-19 and is unable to work, they may be eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • Part-time workers may be eligible for benefits.

The state’s unemployment office is closed to the public, but workers can apply for unemployment benefits online at https://ui.delawareworks.com/.

For residents stuck at home looking for something to do, Delaware State Parks is making it easier to get into nature and explore. The state has suspended fees and won’t require passes to enter any state park or wildlife area.

“Times are challenging and options are few, and this is an opportunity for Delawareans to experience our amazing parks and wildlife areas, to embrace nature while we maintain social distance from each other,” said Shawn Garvin, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. “Hopefully, people will enjoy them enough that they will want to keep coming back long after coronavirus has passed, so we encourage people to buy a state park or wildlife conservation area pass online to use for the rest of the season and to support park and wildlife area operations.”

Campsites and cabins at state parks are still open, though wildlife area offices and nature centers are closed as of the end of the day Tuesday.

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