WILMINGTON, Del. (CBS) – Approximately 200 Delawareans will be hired as contact tracers and support staff in the fight against COVID-19. Delaware Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday a statewide contact tracing plan to help limit Delawareans’ exposure to the disease and restart Delaware’s economy.
“Contact tracing is a basic public health practice for containing an epidemiological event by talking with the person who is infected and reaching out to their contacts in order to decrease transmission. It will help us track positive cases of COVID-19 and limit the spread of the virus both short-term and long-term,” DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said.
The state is teaming up with the nonpartisan research institution NORC at the University of Chicago to build the contact tracing program.
The contact tracing program builds on the state’s plan to test up to 80,000 residents monthly for COVID-19.
NORC has also partnered with Maryland to perform contact tracing. Delaware and Maryland will share information to more effectively monitor COVID-19’s spread across state lines.
“To safely reopen our economy, we need to be able to quickly identify positive COVID-19 cases and reach out to those residents who may have been exposed. This contact tracing program brings us one step closer to returning Delaware to a new normal,” said Carney. “We’ve been working with Maryland to coordinate our reopening efforts, and this partnership will build on that collaboration. Going forward, hiring a contact tracing workforce of Delawareans that reflects the diversity of our state will be a top priority.”
Over the next week, 100 members of the Delaware National Guard will embed with the Division of Public Health to begin wide-scale, statewide contact tracing.
Under Delaware’s contact tracing program, residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 should expect a phone call from a case investigator asking for information which includes a list of the person’s known contacts. Contact tracers will then reach out to each of those contacts to help them safely quarantine, to find alternate arrangements as necessary, and to help them get tested for COVID-19 if recommended.
Applications for contact tracers and other associated positions will be posted at https://de.gov/coronavirus]de.gov/coronavirus in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, as summer approaches, beachfront towns are figuring out how to reopen safely. Delaware remains under a state of emergency, but some small businesses were allowed to open last week.
Carney said he would like to start phase one of reopening on June 1.
He held a call with mayors Tuesday morning and talked about beach towns at a press conference later in the day.
“We want to gradually provide access to beaches, parks and other public spaces. So, we’re going to do as much as we can, working with various sectors as long as we can do it safely,” Gov. Carney said.
On Tuesday, at a virtual board meeting, Rehoboth Beach commissioners discussed some possibilities for summer.
Usually, the beach town is bustling all summer, with lots of crowds, as we saw last summer.
The commissioners say they know summer 2020 cannot be like it was.
They surveyed residents and business owners about what is important to them.
“Some of the things were to take things slowly, follow the CDC guidelines for businesses and restaurants. Yes, they’re in favor of opening the boardwalk as soon as possible but with a system of social distancing. Potentially even restricted hours,” Commissioner Susan Gay said.
Shortly after the meeting, it was announced that Rehoboth Beach will reopen its beach and boardwalk for exercise on Friday, May 15.