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Resurgence committee reveals recommendations to deal with COVID-19

Carney: 'I don't want to go back to the place where we're shutting things down again, because I don't know that we can afford to.'

The committee devoted to helping Delaware weather the surge in coronavirus cases predicted for fall presented its pandemic playbook Friday, and it recommended … wait for it … more committees.

Chief among the dozens of recommendations by the Delaware Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee was that the state create two committees to leverage expertise in the community and to improve communications with the state, industry, business and public.

The first should be a small working group of healthcare operators dealing with the state Division of Public Health, the report said.

The state should also create a larger advisory body with membership similar to the resurgence committee’s makeup to include relevant subsectors and communities, the report said.

Underlying all 48 recommendations is the idea of universal accountability. It was repeatedly referred to by Gov. John Carney and resurgence committee co-chairs Bethany Hall-Long and Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock during a Facebook Live broadcast Friday.

Find the report here.

That accountability encompasses not just state officials and healthcare groups, but also the business community, the general population and community organizations. Each of them must know and follow guidelines, as well as be committed to advocating for others and reporting those who are not following the rules, the report said.

“This thing is bigger than the government,” said Bullock. “It’s bigger than the business community. It’s bigger than the not-for-profit sector. It’s bigger than our healthcare organizations. It’s bigger than any of them individually and our success is ultimately going to be dictated by how well we work together in the weeks and months ahead.”

Bullock said the 46 members of the committee were high-powered, opinionated people who what to make the resurgence plan work and are prepared to lean into it.

Hall-Long coined the term “pandemic playbook.”

“It is a playbook to look into the future with,” she said, and noted it’s just an interim report. Metrics will be added later, she said.

Bullock said the committee tried to look at how to manage any surge with a need to keep businesses open and running.

“I don’t want to go back to the place where we’re shutting things down again,” Carney said. “Because I don’t know that we can afford to.”

The committee was split into three groups looking into health, business and equity. Together, they made 48 recommendations, which ranged from specific to more general.

Dr. Nancy Fan, chair of the health subcommittees and of the Delaware Health Care Commission, said the state should optimize collaboration between all community sectors. A small working group of those involved in healthcare could be flexible and respond quickly to changes, she said. The larger group could help incorporate and make changes on a larger scale.

Her committees’ other big worry was personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. When hospitals shut down, that meant preventative care and treatment for chronic illnesses were delayed. The state doesn’t need to do that again, she said.

She said access can be maintained for mental health, substance abuse and maternity care.

Katie Wilkinson, chair of the business subcommittees and chair of the Delaware State Chamber, said her group wanted to improve communication across the board.

“We can’t talk about the state of Delaware and how to recover without talking about employment,” she said. Her subcommittee’s recommendation include workforce retraining and placement as well as making sure workers know what opportunities are out there, and helping with child care and transportation.

The equity subcommittees focus on both health equity and economic equity, said chair Eugene Young, president of the Metropolitan Urban League of Wilmington.

Among its recommendations, he said, was to expand emergency financial assistance for low income workers, who stopped getting the $600 federal unemployment payment on July 25. The subcommittee also believes the state should expand rental subsidies and eviction arbitration support for renters and home owners.

Carney said it would take a while to go through the recommendations.

“We’ve learned a lot over the last three or four months,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot, as your governor about the capability and the willingness of Delawareans to pull together every sector … As you said, Katie, we’re small, we’re able to communicate better and get things done.

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