Carney tours Delaware Health Operations Center

Gov. John Carney listens to a press briefing of the Coronavirus Task Force members during his visit at the State Health Operations Center (SHOC) in Smyrna on Monday. Molly K. Magarik, Deputy Director of Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, is at left. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

SMYRNA — As if the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t already a serious enough issue facing Gov. John Carney, a walkthrough of the State Health Operations Center (SHOC) in Smyrna helped put a face to those on the front line of tracking and fighting the disease on Monday afternoon.

With TV screens flashing numbers and cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the nation and state, Gov. Carney visited with public health experts — spread out across the second floor of the center — who are leading Delaware’s response to the viral outbreak.

“It’s been a long week or so with a situation that’s evolving on a day-by-day, almost a minute-by-minute, basis,” Gov. Carney said. “I’ve just been so impressed walking around here at the (State Health) Operations Center to see all the folks and resources that we’ve put to this pandemic here in our small state of Delaware.

“The overall objective obviously is to keep everybody safe and, at this point, to try to prevent the spread of disease here in the state of Delaware.”

Joint information center at the State Health Operations Center in Smyrna.

Roughly 75 state health care workers staff the Operations Center throughout the day, and that number is expected to grow. The workers are trained to provide command and control for all public health and medical response and recovery functions, Emergency Support Function (ESF) 8, in a statewide or local emergency or disaster.

The SHOC oversees and coordinates health and medical response operations including the operation of Points of Dispensing (PODs), Alternate Care Sites, Shelter Medical Stations and hospital coordination.

“I was just really impressed as I walked around here with the diligence and focus of our team, the number of people and resources that are here following through on contacts made by the presumed positive cases that we’ve identified answering the calls that we’re getting on our hotline and pushing out good information,” said Gov. Carney.

As of Monday, Delaware had discovered eight presumed positive cases of coronavirus, all in New Castle County. A vast majority of those cases came from part of a group from the University of Delaware traveling to Princeton, New Jersey.

Dr. Karyl Rattay, right, (Delaware Division of Public Health, Director) introduces Governor John Carney to the different departments at the State Health Operations Center in Smyrna on Monday.

Andrea Wojcik, communications chief of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said the state worked a “soft opening” of the Operations Center last week.

As of Monday, Ms. Wojcik said, “We are at our highest level of activity right now – Level 3.”

She added they are receiving a “significant number of call volume” from people with concerns regarding the coronavirus.

Many of the calls were concerning tests for coronavirus, which Dr. Karyl Rattay, director with the Delaware Division of Public Health, said are currently turned around “within 24 hours. We’re up to around 40 tests a day right now.”

Gov. Carney said all the preventative measures have been put in place to try to quell the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’ve taken some pretty dramatic steps over the last two days with respect to the State of Emergency that I issued at the end of last week mostly to what they call, ‘flatten the curve,’ in terms of preventing the spread of the virus here in our state,” he said.

Governor John Carney on a tour at the State Health Operations Center in Smyrna on Monday with Dr. Karyl Rattay (Delaware Division of Public Health, Director).

Monday’s declaration by the governor limits Delaware restaurants, taverns and bars to take-out and delivery service – as well as the closures of the casinos at Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway – to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I think an important point that was made on the (coronavirus) press conference they were just having (Monday) was that you’re always a couple of days behind where you think you are because you’ve got tests that are in process,” said Gov. Carney. “I’m very interested in seeing the test results from Christiana Care drive-thru testing (held) at the end of last week, that was about five or six hundred tests and we already know that one has come back positive, although not many have come back at this point.

“In the abundance of caution, the update to the executive order basically closes restaurants. We had reduced the 100-person events, the recommendation to cancel those events to 50, and then President (Trump) I believe, as we were touring around, ratcheted it down to 10.”

Gov. Carney added he would rather be cautious than to end up in a situation that the state of Washington is in right now.

Governor John Carney, bumps elbows with employees of the State Health Operations Center in Smyrna.

“All these efforts are geared toward containing the spread,” he said. “Some states are obviously in very different situations. My good friend (Gov.) James Inslee in Washington has got the worst situation with 2 percent of the country’s population, 20 percent of the cases and 65 percent of the fatalities as he described, so this is a very serious matter and it’s very important.”

He left the State Health Operations Center with a heightened awareness of what is taking place on the front lines of the pandemic fight in Delaware and the people who are monitoring it.

“I was just really impressed as I walked around here with the diligence and focus of our team, the number of people and resources that are here following through on contacts made by the presumed positive cases that we’ve identified, answering the calls that we’re getting on our hotline and pushing out good information,” Gov. Carney said.

“This is a time for us all, as Delawareans and as Americans, to rally together, pull together, do the right thing, be calm and try to flatten that curve, and it’s going to take some pretty dramatic actions, which we’ve taken led by the science and experts with an eye towards the abundance of caution to protect the people of our state.”


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

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