Poultry companies, state, hospitals and others form COVID-19 testing, education program in southern Delaware

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The poultry industry, state agencies, hospitals and other organizations have combined to form an education, prevention and coronavirus testing program in southern Delaware.

Gov. John Carney on Wednesday announced a partnership with the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH), the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, the Delaware Department of Agriculture, Westside Family Healthcare, local hospital systems, poultry industry employers, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and community partners to set up community testing sites undertake other measures as signs point to an outbreak of cases.

“We’ve seen a significant surge in COVID-19 cases in communities across Sussex County,” saidCarney. “This new testing program is designed to save lives. Over the next week, we will be partnering with local hospitals, the Delaware Division of Public Health, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, and the Delaware Department of Agriculture, and others to offer free, rapid coronavirus testing at community testing sites in Sussex County. As the largest employers in Sussex County, we are partnering with the poultry industry to ensure that workers and their families get all of the information they need to be safe and healthy.”

The community testing plan is a three-pronged effort. It includes testing through the use of rapid test kits and ensuring access to care; guidance on isolation and assistance when it is not possible to isolate safely; and education and outreach through the assistance of “trusted community partners.”

Individuals will receive “care kits” with essential materials including hand sanitizer, bandanas, thermometers, and educational materials. Educational materials are being translated into Spanish and Haitian Creole to reach those who do not read English as their first language. These tests are not mandatory.

“We are grateful for the partnership of everyone involved in bringing this massive effort together,” saidDivision of Public Health Director Karyl Rattay. “In addition to testing sites at poultry plants, there will also be community testing sites, which we expect will reach workers in other industries and their families. We believe this community-based testing strategy will be critical in identifying the extent of the spread of COVID-19 and of mitigating it, by providing guidance and support for those with positive test results and educational materials for everyone tested.”

“The efforts of all these partners to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our rural communities here in Sussex County is a testament to working towards a common goal to re-open our state. From the farmers to the workers in the plants to employees in agribusinesses, our workforce is the backbone that makes agriculture so successful in Delaware,” saidSecretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “We want to ensure that every employee gets the care they need, and to make sure if a staff member does have COVID-19 that we can stop it from spreading to others. We appreciate the efforts that the poultry companies are taking to protect their employees, including implementing physical barriers and social distancing protocols, daily health screenings, and now on-site testing.”

Partners in the community testing efforts include:

  • Bayhealth
  • Beebe Healthcare
  • ChristianaCare Health System
  • Nanticoke Health Services
  • Westside Family Healthcare
  • Allen Harim
  • Mountaire Farms
  • Perdue Farms
  • Local Community Partners and Organizations
  • Municipal and County Government
  • Delaware Technical Community College Georgetown
  • Community Health Centers and Providers

The effort comes after advocacy groups wrote Carney a letter warning of a crisis in Sussex County. The county has also seen the only three deaths of people who did not have any known underlying health condition, a possible sign that individuals are waiting too long to seek treatment.

The number of coronavirus cases in Sussex is approaching the total for more heavily populated New Castle County.

The county has a large percentage of documented and documented immigrants, many of whom may be afraid to report cases.

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