No timetable for Phase Three of reopening, says Gov. Carney

WILMINGTON — There is no timetable for Delaware to move to Phase 3 of its reopening plan following the shutdown put in place to help curb the spread of COVID-19, Gov. John Carney said at his weekly press briefing on Tuesday.

While Gov. Carney noted the state’s COVID-19 numbers keep improving, he said a move to Phase 3 would send a message that the virus is no longer a threat.

“It would send a signal to folks, which is frankly not the right signal to send now, which is we’ve accomplished our goal to stomp out the virus and we can go back to normal,” Gov. Carney said. “It’s really a question of balancing that messaging out, the need to continue on pace, to wear a mask, to social distance, to stomp down the virus and enable us to bring children back to schools and businesses more open so they can get revenue and survive to put people back to work.”

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) reported 61 new cases of COVID-19 in its daily report on Tuesday — marking more than a week since the last time the number of new cases was in triple digits.

The percentage of positive tests was 4% for Tuesday’s data as the seven-day rolling average is 3.8%. Both of those numbers are under the World Health Organization’s recommended mark of 5% and Gov. Carney reiterated his desire for Delaware to remain below that benchmark.

Current COVID-19 hospitalizations remained near their lowest total since March, at 35, according to the DPH on Tuesday. Of those 35, 13 are considered to be in critical condition.

The DPH also announced no new COVID-19-related deaths on Tuesday. Delaware’s death toll from the virus stayed at 591.

With the improving numbers, Gov. Carney said he is more concerned with Delaware getting to a place where schools can reopen before moving to Phase Three.

“To do that, we have to have conditions on the ground that warrant it,” Gov. Carney said. “We’re almost there, we’re getting there. The way to do that is to really lean into the guidance and restrictions on activity that exist.”

Based on current numbers, the state is recommending a hybrid reopening of schools between online and in-person learning, although the final decision will be left up to the individual districts.

Gov. Carney said not much will change throughout most business sectors in Phase 3, with the most affected businesses being restaurants and bars in terms of capacity.

“We have two objectives — reinvigorate the economy and bring children back to school. They’re connected and that’s what will guide our decisions with respect to the remaining reopening that has to occur,” Gov. Carney said. “Most of that is restaurant capacity and gatherings in places that are the greatest risk of transmitting the virus in our communities.”

While Delaware’s COVID-19 numbers were down last week, so was the amount of testing done.

Tropical Storm Isais caused numerous cancellations last Tuesday and a line of severe thunderstorms, which produced at least one confirmed tornado in New Castle County forced several testing sites to close early.

“We did see a decline the last two weeks,” said A.J. Schall, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA). “We have the capacity. We have the events but unfortunately we have to deal with the weather as it comes through.”

Mr. Schall said the state will begin rolling out its testing plan for the reopening of schools in the next few weeks. He said DEMA is hoping to get all school staff tested by the end of next week and keep testing school staff once a month.

The state itself cannot mandate school employees be tested. That decision is left up to the individual districts, but Schall said he hopes everyone will be tested.

“It’s highly encouraged, I’ll put it that way,” Dr. Schall said.

The state is looking at a plan to increase testing in any school districts that will have any form of in-person learning, with testing events hosted at district high schools one week prior to when students are scheduled to go back to class.

So far, the Cape Henlopen School District and Polytech High School have announced they will begin the year in a hybrid model while the Capital and Milford school boards voted students would start the year remotely before a potential return to in-person learning.

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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