Gov. John Carney

Pictured above in a March 20 press briefing at Cape Henlopen State Park the day before closing beaches statewide for most uses, Gov. John Carney on Tuesday urged the public to stay home this weekend, despite expected good weather, to ensure safe social distancing. Beaches, he said, could possibly re-open in the early summer.

Gov. John Carney, at a press briefing on Tuesday, May 12, said he is praying for rain in coming days “to keep the crowds down” — especially at the beach.

“We’re just getting the message out for folks to stay at home this weekend, as we gradually think about opening beaches early this summer. We’re still not out of this. We need to stay at home,” he said about the coronavirus pandemic.

“I, for one, can’t wait to get to the other side of this [but] if ever the analogy about the dimmer switch fits, this is it. It’s hard to do. People want to come back. They have been quarantined in their homes for a couple of months, and they are eager to get back. Beautiful days outside, beautiful beaches. It’s hard,” Carney said.

When beaches do open, it must be in a safe manner, he said — by staying a proper distance from others and avoiding big groups.

“Beaches are where large gatherings take place. It’s complicated, but we are working together with the beach communities.

“Most of the enforcement will happen at the local town level. The State has considerable responsibility and authority for state beaches, and we’ll be working on that and considering our options with regard to the 14-day quarantine for those coming into Delaware,” he said.

Although statistics, including the number of coronavirus patients hospitalized, are moving in the right direction, Carney said, the target date to enter Phase 1 of reopening the community won’t come any earlier.

“We’re trying to make smart decisions. Where you come full circle to is protecting those most vulnerable citizens of ours. That’s what our shutdown is all about.

“So if you’re going to take more risks, then you need to cover that by really leaning into that vulnerable population,” he said.

Asked if he would make the same decisions as he did two months ago, when he first implemented a declaration of a state-of-emergency, Carney said his focus is on tomorrow, not the past.

Concerning state lawmakers having more input about when Phase 1 should launch, Carney said members of the executive branch of state government are invited to comment during conference calls. But ultimately the governor is responsible for decisions during a pandemic, he said, especially “given the difficulty of decisions and the timeliness of which they have to be made.”

Carney emphasized that a healthy community “has to come first,” before reopening the economy.

“It’s a balance between the two,” he said, adding that he isn’t making decisions independently, but in conjunction with experts.

“We are going to open our economy gradually and safely,” he said.

The state has more than 200,000 testing kits and will test 80,000 Delaware residents per month. Contact tracing will also be done, with guidelines for self-isolation to be followed by those who have been exposed to the coronavirus.

“Even when we re-open, everybody needs to understand we will need to continue social distancing and appropriate personal hygiene. Everyone will still be asked to wear masks. … We ask folks to continue to do that. We don’t want to have a rebound in cases. We certainly don’t want to go backward,” Carney said.

During the next several days, plans will be announced for increased testing, said A.J. Schall, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.

“We are moving into the asymptomatic side now,” Schall said, explaining that those without symptoms may be tested if they desire. It’s also important for frontline and essential employees to have access to testing, he said.

Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said she’s pleased the asymptomatic will be able to be tested to “really contain the spread of this virus.”

“We know we can’t stay at home forever. We know we need to evolve back into what is becoming our new normal. In order to do that, we have to test as many people as necessary, and then get those people who test positive isolated as quickly as possible,” Rattay said.

The State is partnering with the National Opinion Research Center, or NORC, at the University of Chicago to monitor the spread of the virus.

“They have hit the ground running a few weeks ago with the build of contact tracing in Maryland, so there are many benefits of partnering with the State of Maryland on this,” Rattay said.

Delaware will hire about 200 Delaware residents to conduct contact-tracing. Those interested in the position can visit the website at de.gov/coronavirus.

Contact-tracing will be based on who was within less than 6 feet of someone ill with the coronavirus for more than 10 minutes, according to Rattay. Even those who don’t develop symptoms should be tested, she said.

About 80 percent of contact-tracing will be done by telephone, and the rest by field staff.

Asked about the cost of the contact-tracing program, Carney said the amount isn’t yet firm, but it will be “a lot.”

Schall said contact-tracers will include those who are bilingual.

Staff Reporter

Veteran news reporter Susan Canfora has written for many newspapers and held positions ranging from managing editor to her favorite, news reporter. She joined the Coastal Point in June 2019. She teaches college writing, tutors and professionally edits.