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Delaware seeks volunteers for hospital help

Katie Tabeling

Gov. John Carney tours the Delaware City DMV as it is turned into a drive-thru testing site through a partnership with FEMA. | PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GOVENOR’S OFFICE

WILMINGTON — While COVID-19 cases hospitalizations have slightly decreased in the last three days, Gov. John Carney is stressing that Delaware is not out of the winter surge yet — and hospitals are still looking for volunteers to help with the record numbers of patients.

“The numbers are still really off the charts, but we’re hopeful that it’s not getting worse,” the governor said during his Tuesday press conference. “And hopefully, we’ll see [progress] over the next several days and weeks as we help the hospitals decompress.”

Carney is also calling volunteers to lend a hand to Delaware’s health care systems as the many nurses have left the workforce two years into the pandemic, leaving those who stay on to handle more day-to-day duties.

“The Delaware hospitals need your help if you’re retired or a former health care worker. General volunteers are accepted as well for non-clinical roles,” Carney said. “We have also contacted higher-ed to see if we can get some students that are in training for nursing and allied health as well as our high schools.”

The Delaware Department of Labor reports that the health care and social assistance industry had 74,100 workers as of February 2020. That includes registered nurses, personal care aides, nursing assistants, medical secretaries, home health aides, physical therapists, surgeons and more. 

By November 2021, that number is now 71,300  — or 2,800 workers less than the pre-pandemic period. It’s unknown if they left the industry entirely, moved out of Delaware or now work at a facility out of the state.

Carney has authorized the National Guard to mobilize to assist frontline health care workers to aid with administrator work and non-clinical services, to allow the health care workers to aid patients. As of last week, 56 guard members were sent to hospitals throughout the state to work in non-clinical roles. 

Once they finish the certified nursing assistant (CNA) programs at Delaware Technical Community College, another 100 guardsmen will be mobilized later this week.

“From everywhere from Nemours to all the way down to Sussex, we’ve had some great feedback from the hospitals and how they serve as a force multiplier,” Delaware Emergency Management Agency Director A.J. Schall said.  “There’s not a reserve corp of doctors and nurses that we can send in, but what we can do is provide good, hard workers that will adapt to anything that’s thrown their way.”

Delaware received approval from FEMA to open a testing center through the Delaware City DMV, and Monday was its first test day serving roughly a hundred people. Results expected within 48 hours. While testing remains in high demand, the turnaround for tests through state pop-up sites and pharmacies has been slowed down since the Christmas holiday.

Delaware is now averaging 62,323 tests per week, or 8,918 per day. But that does not include rapid antigen tests that have been flying off the shelves.

President Joe Biden and his administration has finalized details to directly ship antigen tests to Americans, with the first shipments due to arrive by the end of the month. Tests are limited to four per household, and can be ordered at covidtests.gov.

An appointment is needed for the Delaware City drive-thru testing site, and can be booked at ineedacovi19test.com. This site will be open six days a week until Feb. 7.

To find more testing locations, visit de.gov/gettested.

For more information about volunteering at a Delaware Hospital, visit deha.org/hospitalhelp.

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