Business sub-committee of Pandemic Resurgence task force kicks off
WILMINGTON — It’s time to move past the reactive split-decisions from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and form a proactive plan if a resurgence does come, said Delaware State Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Chair Katie Wilkinson.
Wilkinson, the senior vice president and commercial market executive at Fulton Bank, has been tasked to lead the Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee’s business subcommittee. Her chief goal: Setting data benchmarks for Delaware businesses to keep an eye on as the state reopens the economy.
“It will be a challenge, but to identity these benchmarks that business owners can follow when we’re approaching a resurgence or in a resurgence will give them the opportunity to self-monitor and control their own destiny,” Wilkinson told the Delaware Business Times.
The benchmarks for Delaware’s economy will be driven by data, like what the state has done in tracking hospitalizations for its phased approach in reopening this month. In theory, this would give business leaders guidelines of what to do to ensure that the curve stays flat.
It would also give businesses advance notice of what to expect if an uptick in COVID-19 comes to Delaware, contrasting with the abrupt closure many stores faced in March, Wilkinson said.
“The idea is to have tools so folks can be aware, part of the solution and maybe even plan accordingly,” she said. “It’s about providing the tools and guidelines so we do not face another complete shutdown if we can avoid it.”
But another challenge in making a forward-thinking plan is looking five steps ahead, she added. Like every other state and almost every country in the past three months, Delaware has reacted to a number of positive cases, and COVID-19 test results come within 14 days.
“We need to understand the leading indicators that got them from where they are. Because once we start hearing about positive tests, that’s old news from two weeks ago,” Wilkinson said.
Gov. John Carney created the PRAC and appointed 44 business and community leaders and elected officials to outline strategies moving forward. Led by Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long and Secretary of State Jeff Bullock, the PRAC is divided into three sub-committees: equity, health and business.
To ensure that most industries had a voice, Carney appointed prominent representatives from Delaware’s business community like Kurt Foreman, the president and CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, and Perdue Agribusiness President Dick Willey.
But Carney also asked the state chamber to appoint three members to represent each county.
Those business leaders include Chris Schell, CEO of Schell Brothers Homebuilding that focuses in Sussex County; Taryn Dalmasso, plant manager at Edgewell Products in Dover; and Steve Chambliss, the general manager of the Christiana Mall in Newark.
“Once we start work, I suspect we will have potential gaps [in industry and county],” she said. “But my feeling is that we have the right people on the subcommittee to reach out to folks in those industries to get solid input, so that their ideas are represented in the process.”
The PRAC’s goal is to have a final report of recommendations to execute in time for the predicted fall resurgence of COVID-19 by September 30.