As of Friday afternoon, Delaware officials reported 8,529 cases of the coronavirus, an increase of 143 over Thursday. There have been 322 deaths, five more than Thursday’s total. The number of people hospitalized was at 221, one more than the previous day.
University slashes part-time employees
Most part-time employees at the University of Delaware will be out of work as of June 1. The university announced the plan to cut 1,100 part-time positions in a letter sent to the campus community from Jared Aupperle, interim vice president in the Office of Human Resources.
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“This difficult decision was made after careful consideration of the university’s financial situation, both as it stands now and as the pandemic continues to take a toll on multiple aspects of our operations,” Aupperle wrote. “The university is projected to experience a $50 million loss in the spring semester, as well as a loss of $40 million or more in the upcoming academic year. These projections necessitated today’s actions.”
The cuts don’t affect adjunct faculty, graduate students or work-study students.
Earlier this year, UD put in place other efforts to reduce costs, including freezing salaries, suspending new hiring, and cutting travel and discretionary spending.
In early May, some of the university’s top earners, including President Dennis Assanis and football coach Danny Rocco, took voluntary pay cuts. Assanis took a 10% cut along with provost Robin Morgan and executive vice president John Long. Assanis was paid $965,160 in salary and other compensation for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, according to the school’s most recent tax filing, provided to WHYY by the university.
All members of UD’s senior leadership team, including all vice presidents, deans, chief of police, athletic director and the head football and basketball coaches, took voluntary 5% cuts.
CDC funding boost for state lab
In a typical year, Delaware would receive a $1.5 million Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This year, that grant award is $67 million.
The money will be used to hire staff for enhanced laboratory, surveillance, informatics, and other workforce capacities in an effort to strengthen laboratory testing. The funds will also help the state implement advanced technologies for electronic data exchange at the public health lab and improve surveillance and reporting of electronic health data.
“Widespread community testing for COVID-19 and contact tracing are keys to reopening Delaware’s economy safely while protecting our most vulnerable neighbors. These additional federal resources will be a real help in that effort,” said Gov. John Carney.
Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, said the state was already enhancing the capability of its labs, but the grant money will help accelerate that process.
In addition to supporting expanded statewide testing and analysis, the grant will assist Delaware in creating a COVID-19 surveillance network to test symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, with additional testing for vulnerable populations.
Contact tracing applications now open
The state is accepting applications for people wanting to work as contact tracers, tracking down people who may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. Job applications will be accepted starting at 5 p.m. Friday night.
“It is really important for us to be able to limit the spread of COVID-19. As we reopen the economy, contact tracing is critical for us to be able to decrease the spread,” Rattay said.
Contact tracers work by getting a list of people a confirmed coronavirus patient may have come in close contact with for longer than 10 minutes. They then follow up with those people and warn them that they may have contracted the virus.
Rattay said the state recognizes some people have concerns about privacy related to the work of contact tracers. She said those workers will not share personal details about who may have exposed the contact to the virus or any other personal information.
“It is very important as we roll this out that we protect everyone’s health and everyone’s health information,” she said.