Gov. John Carney met with reporters on Friday, March 20, to update them on steps being taken by state officials with regard to efforts to the combat the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) within the state.
As of that evening, Delaware’s confirmed cases had increased to 39 cases: 7 in Sussex County, 5 in Kent County and in 27 New Castle County. This is an increase of nine.
Carney, along with Department of Public Health Secretary Dr. Kara Odom-Walker and officials from Sussex County hospitals, addressed concerns about the growing number of cases across the state.
He said he wanted to see for himself how the state parks are being utilized during this time. “I was little concerned about the social distancing that was or wasn’t taking place,” Carney said.
As he spoke those words in front of the Biden Environmental Center in Cape Henlopen State Park on Friday afternoon, groups of walkers and bicyclists passed by within a few feet of the assembly.
Carney said he would consider shutting down state parks and beaches if it appears that the public is not adhering to social distancing guidelines — staying at least six feet from other people when in public spaces.
This respiratory disease is easily transmitted by an everyday cough or sneeze, which can project droplets up to six feet. In Delaware, businesses, schools and government buildings have been closed to encourage social distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19.
He also announced that the Dogfish Head brewery would soon be making hand sanitizer, which would be sold at market pricing in Delaware.
Statewide testing plan
Also on Friday, Carney and the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), announced on Friday a coordinated statewide plan to ensure individuals with COVID-19 symptoms have access to safe and efficient testing in Delaware. Tests will be administered at no cost to the patients.
Through a collaborative effort between the (DPH), Delaware Healthcare Association and each of the health care systems in the state, this statewide plan aims to streamline the testing process, reduce the burden on the health system, ensure the safety of patients and health care workers, and better meet the COVID-19 testing needs of Delawareans.
“As this situation continues to evolve, we know that we will continue to see an increase in positive cases of the virus. It is critically important that we all work together to reduce the burden on our health system and keep Delawareans safe,” said Carney.
“Our goal right now is to limit the spread of the virus,” he added. “The community-based testing plan we are announcing today builds on our already established infrastructure in Delaware’s health system in an effort to make testing more readily accessible for those in need.”
Beginning Monday, March 23, Delaware health systems will operate standing health facility test sites, where health care staff will test individuals who have been evaluated by a medical provider and have symptoms consistent with COVID-19. A physician order or prescription is required.
Standing health facility test sites will include:
- New Castle County: ChristianaCare will operate two testing sites, one in Newark, one in Wilmington; Saint Francis Healthcare will operate one site in Wilmington.
- Kent County: Bayhealth will operate one testing site in Dover.
- Sussex County: Beebe Healthcare will operate two testing sites, one in Millsboro and one in Frankford; Nanticoke Health Services will operate one testing site in Seaford.
Symptomatic individuals who want or need a COVID-19 test and who have access to a health care provider must first contact their provider. Teleconsultation is preferred unless the provider determines in-person consultation is needed. If COVID-19 symptoms are present, the patient can be referred to a health facility test site.
Individuals who do not have access to a health care provider can call the DPH Call Center, or call centers run by Christiana Care, Bayhealth or Beebe, and medical personnel will determine if the caller meets criteria for testing. Medical personnel will then provide the appropriate documentation to give the caller access a test site.
Importantly, testing is not recommended for those who do not have symptoms. Before leaving home, anyone who is experiencing symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath, should first call their health care provider or the DPH Coronavirus Call Center at 1-866-408-1899 to discuss whether or not a coronavirus test is warranted.
There is no need to go to the emergency room, unless individuals are having significant difficulty breathing or other complications. Delaware’s hospitals are prepared for coronavirus, but it is important to preserve resources for those who truly need them and avoid unnecessarily exposing vulnerable people to the virus.
Anyone with a medical emergency should call 911 and tell the dispatcher about all symptoms the patient is experiencing.
Anyone who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or who shows symptoms of illness, should stay home and maintain distance from vulnerable populations. This includes people 60 years of age and older; people with serious chronic health conditions such as diabetes, lung disease or heart disease; or those who are immunocompromised. Many individuals infected with COVID-19 recover by resting, drinking plenty of liquids and taking pain and fever-reducing medications. However, illness can be severe and require hospitalization in some cases.
“Effective response takes all of us working together. Our hospitals and the Division of Public Health will continue in close collaboration through this event,” said Wayne Smith, President & CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Association.
“Delawareans also have a critical role to play in keeping our health care providers safe: if you suspect you have been exposed to coronavirus, stop and call your health care provider first,” said Smith. “It is vitally important that you do not go directly to your doctor’s office or the Emergency Room to protect the health of health care providers and vulnerable populations.”
Delawareans with 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 people 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. Updates are posted online at de.gov/coronavirus.