Gov. John Carney will not commit to moving to Phase 3 of the state’s economic reopening plan. Since June 15, Delaware has been in Phase 2 of reopening, which allows restaurants and most retail shops to open to 60 percent of their fire-code capacity.
Carney said a move to Phase 3 would be delayed, possibly until a vaccine is available. He said the Labor Day weekend would be a big test. “If we can get over the Labor Day weekend successfully without a lot of COVID-19 spread, then we're really going to be set up real well,” he said.
As his weekly briefing, the governor said he wants to see “fewer cases over a 14-day period of time and improving conditions with respect to the percent of people testing positive.” He said he wants the percentage of people who test positive to be 3 percent or less.
Looking at what would occur under Phase 3, Carney said, “It was mostly opening up certain venues, but it gave the impression that everything was back to normal. Well everything is not going to be back to normal until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment. We need to have protections in place to keep the spread down and to protect particularly vulnerable populations.”
“We’re better than a lot of states. We haven’t seen an uptick since what we saw at the end of June and the beginning of July, as we moved out of Memorial Day weekend and into the 4th of July,” Carney said. “We know where the challenges are. They are increasingly in unstructured, house parties, not-so-much in bars and restaurants.”
Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of Delaware Division of Public Health, said anyone working directly with the public should be tested at least once a month, especially teachers, first responders and those visiting or working with seniors.
According to data provided by the state, the number of people tested weekly in August ranged between 11,268 and 13,548. The pace picked up last week with 15,731 people tested. State officials have consistently fallen short of their goal of testing 80,000 people per month. The state has tested about 7,000 people working at schools and less than 0.6 percent have tested positive. State officials will be shifting to using consistent testing site locations with five-day or seven-day-a-week access.
The state will be expanding its at-home testing option to 1,000 people per day. Test kits are sent to residences and recipients are walked through the process via video chat. The samples are mailed back with results within two days.
Other COVID-19 related news this week:
• Beebe Healthcare CEO and President David Tam announced recently on social media that the hospital had no COVID-19 patients in the hospital for the first time since the pandemic began in March.
• The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association board of directors has reversed an earlier decision to delay the start of school fall sports. On Sept. 10, the board approved a fall sports start date of Monday, Sept. 28, with competition to begin Oct. 19. The State Board of Education will vote on the recommendation at its Thursday, Sept. 17 meeting.
• Historic Sussex County Return Day in Georgetown has been cancelled. Ironically, the event was cancelled in 1918 during the Spanish flu epidemic.
• Resort-area bars were permitted to reopen with restrictions in time for the Labor Day holiday. Under the reopening plan, bar patrons must order food along with their drinks, practice social distancing and make reservations. Carney closed resort bars before the July 4th weekend citing a lack of face coverings and social distancing.
• State officials are reacting to an event described as a rodeo or concert on Redden Road near Bridgeville over the weekend, drawing an estimated 2,000 people. Calling it a prescription for disaster, Carney said he was disturbed by the photographs he saw with people not wearing masks and not social distancing. Officials urged everyone attending the event to get tested for COVID-19, and a testing site was set up Sept. 11 in Bridgeville. In addition, officials are seeking to determine if legal action against the organizers will be pursued.
• Delaware is back on the quarantine lists of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Delaware residents visiting are required to remain in quarantine in the states for two weeks.