Take a hard look at COVID response in Sussex

May 1, 2020

Delaware and Sussex County – all of us – have done poorly in responding to spread of the coronavirus in the interior parts of the county around the poultry processing facilities. Many people now among the hottest spots for COVID-19 in the mid-Atlantic region live and work in crowded conditions. That’s an obvious formula for rapid spread and could lead to the Sussex economy being disproportionately affected compared to the surrounding region.

This needs to be given serious discussion now.

Many living in the Sussex hot spots, and working there and elsewhere throughout Sussex, are a vital part of our overall economy and emerging multi-ethnic culture. Are we treating them differently from how we are treating other segments?

They work in many of our companies with us, not just the poultry facilities. They work on construction and landscaping and painting crews, in our restaurants, hotels and motels, and in medical facilities. They are part of us, yet were they given the attention needed as we went about shutting down our beaches and businesses to try to curb the virus spread?

The inability of some leaders to grasp the seriousness of this outbreak was crystalized in the words of Sussex Councilman Sam Wilson, who this week told county council testing poultry plant workers was a dumb idea that would ruin the economy. Testing is not dumb. It is the only tool we have to identify who is sick so they can be isolated and treated to slow down this disease.

These hot spots and inconsistent testing are not only disproportionately hitting an ethnic and socioeconomic segment, they are also skewing numbers so that it looks almost impossible to ever reach the 14 days of declining numbers and 14 days of holding there that Gov. Carney wants before we start reopening our economy. 

We could be seeing surrounding jurisdictions opening up before we do, which means we could lose our summer workforce and the strong resort economy that goes with it.

Aggressive action and different thinking are needed immediately to protect the parts of our Sussex society being infected, and so we can open other parts of our economy selectively to help mitigate all the long-term negative impacts of this pandemic.


  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, Publisher Emeritus, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, CoPublisher and Editor; Dave Frederick, Sports Editor Emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, Associate Editor; Nick Roth, Sports Editor; and Chris Rausch, CoPublisher and General Manager.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter