Kent County-focused virtual Recovery Town Hall draws hundreds

DOVER — Reopening Delaware businesses with caution, unemployment concerns and maintaining healthy practices during the coronavirus pandemic were all discussed during a Recovery Town Hall virtual session on Wednesday night.

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long was joined by Department of Labor Secretary Cerron Cade, Division of Public Health State Medical Director Dr. Rick Hong and Division of Small Business Director Damian DeStefano in the 60-minute session. Gov. John Carney spokesman Jon Starkey was the moderator.

The Kent County-focused event drew an audience of more than 500 as the panel answered submitted questions from the public. A replay of the meeting is available online at Delaware.gov.

Secretary Cade said an automated program to process federal unemployment assistance applications for independent contractors should be available within two weeks. The U.S. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act on March 27 to assist contractors and those self-employed.

Payment coverage would be retroactive to the agreement’s launch date in March, Secretary Cade said. Because of Delaware’s staff size, the claims can’t be handled manually, Secretary Cade said.

The best avenue to contact the Department of Labor is by emailing uiclaims@delaware.gov. The DOL continues to respond to physical documents dropped into mailboxes as well, Secretary Cade said.

Describing the virus as “living longer” and “durable,” Lt. Gov. Hall-Long said the need for face masks in public has evolved as more has become known. If masks aren’t available, then a T-shirt or bandanna can be used to cover the nose and mouth, the University of Delaware School of Nursing professor said.

Mr. DeStefano outlined a tiered approach to reopening the state, previewing the first two phases to be engaged when the proper level of safety and public health allows.

The first phase includes:

• Vulnerable individuals shelter in place.

• Maintaining social distancing in public

• Limit gatherings to 10 individuals

• Minimize non-essential travel – personal and business

• Encourage teleworking

• Return to work in phases

• Consider special accommodations for vulnerable populations of workforce

• Schools and youth activities remain closed

• No visits to senior living facilities and hospitals

• Large venues, restaurants would have strict guidelines

• Elective surgeries to resume

• Gyms to follow strict physical sanitation protocol

• Bars remain closed

The second phase includes:

• Vulnerable individuals shelter in place

• Main social distancing in public

• Limit gatherings to 50 individuals

• Non-essential travel can resume

• Encourage teleworking

• Close common areas at work places

• Consider special accommodations for vulnerable populations of workforce

• Schools and youth activities can reopen

• No visits to senior living facilities or hospitals

• Large venues, restaurants operate under physical distancing protocols

• Elective surgeries to resume

• Gyms to follow strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols

• Bars can open with reduced standing-room occupancy

Dr. Hong said it’s been discussed but the state can’t currently commit to reopening certain areas while keeping restrictions in place elsewhere. He said travel concerns exist since “It’s easy to jump from town to town, county to county.”

Upcoming meetings will be held on May 4 at 6 p.m. (northern New Castle County focus), May 6 at 7:30 p.m. (Sussex County) and May 7 at 6 p.m. (southern New Castle County).


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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