Recommendations for the reopening of schools are currently being reviewed by Delaware Secretary of Education Susan Bunting, after groups appointed to study effective ways to reopen were presented this week. The goal, Gov. John Carney said at a press briefing on Tuesday, is providing “as much in-person instruction as possible in a way that is safe.”
Several areas are being explored, including health and wellness of children who must be kept safe from the virus, academics, equity and transporting students in buses while keeping them proper distances apart, Carney said.
“We’re working with the school districts to see how we are going to educate our children,” he added.
Also during the press briefing, the governor said that during the past two weeks, more than 4,000 coronavirus tests have been administered.
“It certainly helps us to know where the spread is occurring and helps us focus on different parts of our state,” he said. “Our target has been to keep our positive cases below 5 percent. It’s a target. We are right on the border,” he noted, as Delaware’s percentage of positive tests is around 5.3 percent.
Statewide, as of Monday, July 6, there had been 12,414 cases of the coronavirus since March 11, with 514 deaths and 56 current hospitalizations, with 15 patients in critical condition. Hospitalizations peaked at 337.
There have been 4,977 cases in Sussex County and 5,555 in New Castle County, with most cases being in those 18 to 34 years old.
Carney said he is concerned by those who refuse to wear masks.
“It’s one of the more disturbing things,” he said. “One of the things that is very clear since the beginning is that wearing a face covering or mask is the most important way to protect others and also to protect themselves.
“For us, the challenge is to get that message out without making it a political statement. It’s a statement of what you can do to help us flatten the curve,” he said.
Responding to a question submitted by the Coastal Point, Carney said the actions of leaders, including President Donald Trump, who don’t wear masks or practice social distancing at public events, are “sad and counterproductive.”
“It’s become a political thing, and that doesn’t make any sense to me. The evidence is just clearly in front of us, what you need to do,” he said.
Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said the state is not “out of the woods yet.”
Some businesses don’t have appropriate signage on countertops or on the doors, stating the requirement for face coverings, she said, encouraging anyone who notices non-compliance to report it to HSPcontact@delaware.gov.
So far, the State has received more than 700 such complaints, prompting 220 investigations. Infractions can result in fines or in businesses being shut down, she said.
Rattay praised the manager of Harpoon Hanna’s in West Fenwick. She said she was there with a friend last week and noticed a group of about 20 people hugging their friends.
“Suddenly there was a party going on next to us. The manager there, Mike, very quickly responded and got those individuals out of there,” she said, adding that he didn’t know who Rattay was.
She also announced on Tuesday that what have been daily news releases listing the number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths will be only be sent to the media weekly from now on, because the information is also posted online at de.gov/healthycommunity.
Rattay thanked hospitals in Delaware for “responding in so many ways,” including changing visitation policies.
A.J. Schall, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, said 18 testing sites were available this week.
“There should be a location close to where you live or work,” he said.
Schall said the Delaware’s Hope Line, reached by calling 1-833-9-HOPEDE, is staffed by counselors and available for those who are stressed or concerned about not being able to visit a hospitalized loved one.
“Help is here” in the form of licensed counselors, some of whom speak Spanish, he said.
He urged neighbors to check on each during heat waves, especially since those without air conditioning can’t go to libraries to cool off, since libraries aren’t open. Anyone who can’t afford to buy a fan, or who is having difficulty paying bills, should contact non-profit organizations for assistance, Schall said.
“These are trying times. We will get through this. We have stuck together great as a state. A few more months and we’ll get out of this,” he said.
Answering other questions from reporters, Carney said he supports mail-in voting because it allows those who might not be able to leave their homes to vote.
“The intent of it is to maximize the number of people who can vote without having to put themselves at risk,” he said, discounting claims that mail-in voting leads to fraud. “I have never seen evidence of it. I want to be on the side of encouraging more people to vote, not making it harder to vote,” he said.
With the state lingering in Phase 2 of reopening and Phase 3 put on hold for the meantime, Carney was asked if he would again impose Phase 1 restrictions if the number of coronavirus cases spikes again. He said that isn’t his intention and that he closed bars and bars inside of restaurants last week to bring the increase in cases under control without having to eventually close all but essential businesses again.