Gov. John Carney on Tuesday declared Sussex County a hot spot for COVID-19 in Delaware as the number of cases rises sharply.
Carney also announced the initial schedule for the State of Delaware’s Coordination and Care community testing sites. Carney also requested and received assistance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Testing and outreach will occur in several Sussex communities that are at the center of the outbreak, a release stated.
Carney first announced the community testing and outreach partnership among the state, hospital systems, and others last week, with an initial focus on Sussex County.
Stepped up testing
The testing sites and outreach will be conducted in coordination with state, health care entities and poultry companies.
It is already known that an area in Sussex County with poultry processing plants that are staffed by the state’s immigrant population have seen a growing number of cases. At least one processor has reported that production has been reduced, due to a large number of employee absences.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump ordered poultry and meatpacking plants to remain open, citing threats to the nation’s food supply.
Testing is geared to reach the following high-risk populations: those with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, those living or working with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, family members or housemates of those working in the poultry industry, and those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, or compromised immune systems.
“Sussex County has become a hot spot for COVID-19, especially in areas along the Route 113 corridor,” said Carney. “We are working with community partners to expand testing sites and share educational information in those communities. It’s critical to protect your family and yourself by following the guidance from the CDC and the Delaware Division of Public Health. Most importantly, stay home. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to call 2-1-1 for more information and assistance. Dial 9-1-1 for an emergency. It’s critical we all work together to get through this.”
Residents of Sussex County will receive emergency alerts on their phones through the Delaware Emergency Management Agency about the hot spot in Sussex County, as well as messages in partnership with the Delaware Department of Education and local school districts.
Community members will see printed educational materials at testing sites and within existing food delivery services, increased billboard placements, and social media and digital advertising across the county stressing the urgency of the COVID-19 hotspot in Sussex County.
The State of Delaware and its partners tested more than 750 individuals last week during the first expansion of COVID-19 community testing in Sussex County. More than 35 percent of test results at the community testing events were positive for COVID-19.
Late last week, Carney requested assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assist in community testing and contact tracing efforts. The CDC has sent an epidemiology team to Delaware to help quantify the spread of the disease downstate, combat the COVID-19 crisis in Sussex County, and make recommendations to prevent even more widespread transmission.
CDC sends team to Sussex
“We are incredibly grateful for the CDC’s expertise, and assistance as we work to quantify and understand the spread of COVID-19 in Sussex County,” said said Division of Heaht Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “This Epi Aid team will approach the issue from an epidemiological perspective and work to quantify the extent of the spread of the disease in Sussex, identify the transmission routes and provide recommendations for us to consider in mitigating the spread.”
The focus of community testing sites is employees of essential businesses, family members of at-risk populations, those exposed to someone with COVID-19, or someone caring for a sick family member with COVID-19.
The testing sites involve both rapid and nasal swab testing, immediate case investigation for positive cases, connection to a resource coordinator for services like food and housing for those who are positive, and care kits to be given to individuals being tested.
Care kits will be given to people who have a high risk of household transmission and do not have the means to purchase the supplies themselves. A doctor’s order or referral is not needed for these sites.
Hospital systems part of effort
Each of the health care systems in Sussex County is participating in this community testing effort. There will be bilingual staff on site. The timing and locations of initially scheduled community testing sites are below. Nanticoke Memorial Hospital also anticipates beginning community testing within the week and will provide details for their testing plan once details have been finalized.
- Community Testing Site hosted by Beebe Healthcare in the parking lot between JD Shuckers and the Veteran’s Administration off of Rt. 404 in Georgetown: Wednesday, April 29 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Community Testing Site hosted by Bayhealth at the DHSS State Services Center in Milford located at 253 NE Front Street: Thursday, April 30 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
- Community Testing Site hosted by Beebe Healthcare in the parking lot between JD Shuckers and the Veteran’s Administration off of Rt. 404 in Georgetown: Friday, May 1 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Community Testing Site hosted by Bayhealth at the DHSS State Services Center in Milford located at 253 NE Front Street: Saturday, May 2 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
- Community Testing Site hosted by Beebe Healthcare in the parking lot between JD Shuckers and the Veteran’s Administration off of Rt. 404 in Georgetown: Saturday, May 2 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
- Community Testing Site hosted by Bayhealth at the DHSS State Services Center in Milford located at 253 NE Front Street: Monday, May 4 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
“Beebe Healthcare is committed to work with Governor Carney to develop a model for statewide testing that aligns the efforts of investigating the extent of the COVID-19 infection with the best clinical care for our population,” said Dr. David Tam, CEO of Beebe Healthcare. “We have led the effort to operationalize the State’s plan for community-based testing in Georgetown that brings together many different healthcare and community organizations to provide a safe and accessible way people can be screened, tested, and receive the social support and education needed to help decrease further spread of the COVID-19 virus. It is our hope that this testing model can be operationalized throughout Sussex County and Delaware by our healthcare and community partners. I am so proud of Team Beebe for developing and implementing our plan so quickly.”
“Bayhealth is proud to have our team assisting with the COVID-19 testing in Sussex County, and we remain committed to supporting all statewide efforts related to fighting this pandemic,” said Terry M. Murphy, FACHE, Bayhealth CEO. “We are very proud of our collaboration with the Governor’s office, the Division of Public Health, and our healthcare partners throughout the state. Bayhealth continues to serve all of our communities in central and southern Delaware through our Coronavirus Management Team screening hotline and with our referral-based drive-thru screenings, and by providing care to those who need it. Bayhealth’s community coronavirus management plan has proven a very effective system with an average of 450 people tested weekly for a total of 2,700 tested to date.”
“Nanticoke Memorial Hospital and Peninsula Regional Health System are committed to our community and support statewide testing in Delaware,” said Penny Short, president Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Senior Vice President Peninsula Regional Health System. “We are pleased to work alongside both the Division of Public Health and our local leaders to develop testing sites to meet the needs of our population.”
“The Delaware Hispanic Commission wants to thank the leadership of the governor and his staff for identifying the immediate needs related to COVID-19, specifically in Sussex County where it has impacted the Latino community,” said Delaware Hispanic Commission Chairman Javier G. Torrijos. “These community care sites are important to provide the education and resources immediately to help curve the pandemic in our community. Without the resources and the multilingual education material, the impact of COVID-19 would be much worse.”