Gov. John Carney started Tuesday’s press briefing praising essential workers and saying his “heart aches” over the economic and health toll coronavirus the state has suffered.
The briefing also focused on the outbreak in Sussex County and some positive signs in the state’s other two counties.
Carney remembered that the final hours of his father’s life were spent on a ventilator, a medical tool of last resort in dealing with critically ill coronavirus patients.
Carney said signs of a flattening of the curve are beginning to appear statewide, with the exception of a portion of Sussex County. He noted that more than 30 percent of those at one site tested positive.
Carney said the state’s job is to “put out the fire” at hotspots, such as the one that has developed in Sussex County, while preparing for business reopenings.
The governor says the state needs a doubling of testing capacity as well as contact tracing, the use of health care workers who work to contact people exposed to those carrying the virus.
Carney said the state is working on metrics that would show conditions have improved to the point that business reopenings move forward, once testing and contact tracing is in place.
Division of Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay turned to the use of facemasks that are now mandatory in public settings.
It is now known that coronavirus is spread by people who show no symptoms, making face-coverings necessary, Rattay said. Critics of face coverings have cited previous guidance that suggested their use had a minimal impact.
Emergency Management chief A.J. Schall said the state still has sufficient capacity to handle coronavirus cases but is closely watching the situation in Sussex.
Schall and other officials said downstate hospitals are working together to ensure that enough beds are available. The state can also set up a mobile hospital.
Carney said his message to business owners who might defy the facemask order is that the requirement is designed to help businesses fully reopen sooner rather than later.
The masks also protect employees and owners as well as customers, he noted.