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Delaware restricts child care centers to essential personnel, coronavirus death toll rises to 10

A woman walks in Wilmington, Del., wearing a protective mask

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

As of Tuesday afternoon, Delaware has 319 cases of coronavirus, an increase of 55 from Monday. Three more people in the state have died for a total of 10 deaths since the virus started. There are 64 coronavirus patients being treated at hospitals statewide, an increase of 18 patients since yesterday.

A total of five residents of long-term care facilities have died statewide, including three residents at the Little Sisters of the Poor home in Newark.

The state is also providing the first information on negative tests results. Health officials say there have been 3,696 negative tests reported to the state.
Since the state started keeping track of the number of cases, there have been 57 people hospitalized with the virus, 14 of those were critically ill.

On Monday, Gov. John Carney issued the eighth update of his state-of-emergency declaration. The change will close all child care centers by April 6. The only centers allowed to stay open are those that can prove they are serving children of people working at “essential businesses.” Those essential employees are outlined in the emergency order Carney put out earlier this month. They include the health care industry and workers in grocery stores, restaurants, and other essential locations.

“This new order will make sure Delaware’s health care workers and other first responders can stay at work, and keep our communities healthy, by providing them access to emergency child care services,” Carney said. “We are doing everything we can to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases that could overwhelm our hospital system, and health care workers are on the front lines of Delaware’s response.”

The state has 1,058 licensed child care facilities, with a capacity to serve up to 50,657 children. Many of them have stayed open even as enrollment dropped, and staff were forced to be in close contact with both children and their parents.

Andria Keating, who runs Babes on the Square Too north of Wilmington, told WHYY News last week some of her employees were fearful of reporting to work because of the virus. “There’s definitely some struggling emotionally with this,’’ Keating said. “They are scared, uncomfortable. They’re struggling to be here, but they come.”

Now, in order to stay open, child care centers will have to apply with the state Children’s Department to be approved as an emergency site.

“Our child care workers keep our children safe every single day, and now, they must do so under very difficult circumstances,” said Josette Manning, Children’s Department secretary. “We are extremely grateful for the child care providers that are able to keep their doors open and make it possible for those providing essential services to serve Delawareans during this public health emergency.”

Applications must be submitted online by Friday, April 3.

The emergency child care centers will also have to abide by new operating restrictions. Adults who drop off or pick up children must do so at the entrance to the building, not the classroom door, unless the classroom has its own entrance from the outside. Staff and children must also not have an elevated temperature. That could be done by an active temperature check at the door, or by asking staff and parents to report their temperature when they arrive.

The digital budget address

The local municipal budget address is typically a time for pomp and ceremony. A chance for the mayor or county executive to shake hands with council members and the public before presenting the spending plan for the coming fiscal year. But this year, there will be no handshaking before or after the budget address. Like everything else, these speeches have gone digital.

Last week Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki delivered his budget address online in a speech from his office in downtown Wilmington.

“Two weeks ago, I could never have imagined giving a budget address under the circumstances in which we find ourselves today,” Purzycki said. “As unpredictable as today was then, the future seems equally unpredictable now as we prepare for the government’s year ahead.”

It’s difficult to budget for the coming year when it’s not known how costly the coronavirus will be on the city’s economy or when things will return to normal. “While FY 2020 will likely see a small erosion in revenue, FY 21 looks far more problematic,” he said.

The $169 million budget he presented is a 1.1% increase over the current year’s spending plan. It does not call for an increase in property taxes or water fees.

Tonight, New Castle County executive Matt Meyer will do the same in an address that will be livestreamed on Facebook. www.facebook.com/nccde

As part of the virtual presentation to the County Council, Meyer will propose more than $2 million in emergency COVID-19 funding. That money would fund supplies like personal protection equipment, test kits, and other items for first responders.

The emergency funding request includes $500,000 to supplement the state’s rental assistance program that provides up to $1,500 to help renters affected by shutdowns, closures, layoffs, reduced work hours, or unpaid leave related to coronavirus. Another $500,000 would go to the United Way, Delaware Community Foundation, Longwood Foundation, and Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement. Those groups are providing goods and services to residents who have the greatest need.

Wilmington food sites expanded

Wilmington residents have more locations to pick up free food this week. The extra grab-and-go food sites provide breakfast and lunch, and in some cases dinner for children 18 or under.

“We continue to work to ensure that every young person who needs a meal can get one within a reasonable distance from their home,” said Purzycki. “We’ll add sites as needed in the future.”

Since March 17, the city has handed out more than 35,000 meals at locations around the city.

Starting today and Thursday, dinners will be made available between 4:30 and 5:50 p.m. at William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center on North Madison Street, and Youth Empowerment on Sycamore Street.

A complete list of distribution sites is as follows:

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