ChristianaCare conducts COVID-19 testing in Georgetown

A ChristianaCare staff member administers COVID-19 testing during Wednesday’s mobile unit stop in Georgetown. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

GEORGETOWN — Efforts to ramp up screening and testing for COVID-19 rolled into Georgetown Wednesday via ChristianaCare’s mobile unit — amid word from the state of a partnership that will enlist health care systems, agencies and poultry companies to increase community testing in Sussex County, where hot spots have developed.

“We’ve seen a significant surge in COVID-19 cases in communities across Sussex County,” said Gov. John Carney in statement. “This new testing program is designed to save lives. Over the next week, we will be partnering with local hospitals, the Delaware Division of Public Health, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, and the Delaware Department of Agriculture, and others to offer free, rapid coronavirus testing at community testing sites in Sussex County.

“As the largest employers in Sussex County, we are partnering with the poultry industry to ensure that workers and their families get all of the information they need to be safe and healthy.”

Staff with ChristianaCare’s mobile unit perform COVID-19 testing Wednesday in Georgetown at Delaware Technical Community College.

A surge of confirmed coronavirus cases has hiked Sussex County’s COVID-19 count close to that of more densely populated New Castle County.

As of the most recent state data, Georgetown’s ZIP code topped the state with 301-325 cases. Millsboro’s ZIP code had 176-200 cases.

“We’re targeting areas where we believe there is likely a need for testing, individuals who have symptoms but may not have a primary care provider already for themselves, or the easy ability to get into any of the testing facilities that have been set up in the state,” said Terri Corbo, ChristianaCare’s senior vice president of Clinical Essential Services. “So, it is really just saying, ‘OK what is the population? What might be the need down there?’ And we come in mobile … and stand up.”

The community testing plan announced Wednesday is a triple-pronged effort. It includes:

• testing through the use of rapid test kits and ensuring access to care;

• guidance on isolation and assistance when it is not possible to isolate safely;

A ChristianaCare staff member reaches in a vehicle for COVID-19 testing during the community screening/testing provided by ChristianaCare’s mobile unit.

• and education and outreach through the assistance of trusted community partners.

Individuals will receive “care kits” with essential materials, including hand sanitizer, bandanas, thermometers and educational materials. Those materials are being translated into Spanish and Haitian Creole to reach those who do not read English as their first language. These tests are not mandatory.

“We are grateful for the partnership of everyone involved in bringing this massive effort together,” said Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay.

“In addition to testing sites at poultry plants, there will also be community testing sites, which we expect will reach workers in other industries and their families. We believe this community-based testing strategy will be critical in identifying the extent of the spread of COVID-19 and of mitigating it, by providing guidance and support for those with positive test results and educational materials for everyone tested.”

Among the partners in the initiative are Allen Harim, Mountaire Farms and Perdue Farms — three major poultry processors who have a prominent presence in the county’s workforce and agricultural industry.

“The efforts of all these partners to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our rural communities here in Sussex County is a testament to working towards a common goal to re-open our state. From the farmers to the workers in the plants to employees in agribusinesses, our workforce is the backbone that makes agriculture so successful in Delaware,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse.

“We want to ensure that every employee gets the care they need, and to make sure if a staff member does have COVID-19 that we can stop it from spreading to others. We appreciate the efforts that the poultry companies are taking to protect their employees, including implementing physical barriers and social distancing protocols, daily health screenings, and now on-site testing.”

Other partners in the testing include: Bayhealth, Beebe Healthcare, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital/Peninsula Regional Health System, Westside Family Healthcare, local organizations, municipal and county governments, Delaware Technical Community College in Georgetown and community health centers and providers.

On Wednesday, those seeking screening and testing were in line an hour prior to the scheduled start of ChristianaCare’s free four-hour event, staged in the library parking lot of the Delaware Technical Community College Owens Campus in Georgetown.

While proper identification was strongly recommended, persons without it were not turned away.

“We’re asking for ID, because it’s important that we be able to return the results accurately. But we’re not sharing that information. It’s entirely for our use, to get results back,” said Ms. Corbo, noting if someone does not have identification then “at that point we can only trust that they are giving us accurate contact information.”

Tests are sent to Christiana Hospital for in-house testing in its laboratory. Patients will receive the results in three to four days via phone call, Ms. Corbo said.

Augmenting screening and testing efforts is reinforcing emphasis on personal preventive measures embedded in Gov. Carney’s State of Emergency modifications.

“The first line of protection still starts in the patient home, and as we interact with each other out in public, the six feet of social distancing, masks if you are to be speaking with others. We encourage that,” said Ms. Corbo. “You’ll see our team here is wearing the personal protective equipment.”

There was no scheduled return of ChristianaCare to Sussex County as of Wednesday, but Ms. Corbo says there likely will be.

“We are assessing the situation as far as ChristianaCare, where we can bring resources to an area of need. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there is more coming,” she said. “We’ve been out and about, and we will continue to do so.”

ChristianaCare’s staff Wednesday totaled about 29.

“We’ve found that to be a good sized team,” said Ms. Corbo. “Everyone is on board. Honestly, if you watch our health care workers, you’ll see that their spirits are high. There is a joy for those us who have the love of health and serving others. And that is what we are getting to do today. Our team is in excellent spirits.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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