Expected big COVID-19 caseload bump announced, including nine new deaths

DOVER — Delaware saw its largest increase yet in the coronavirus total Friday as the count of laboratory-confirmed cases jumped from 2,075 to 2,323. There were also nine additional deaths, bringing that total to 61, including the first instance of a Delawarean without underlying health conditions dying from COVID-19.

However, that big bump is at least partially attributable to a system error that caused the prior day’s numbers to be artificially low.

“Due to system processing delays, today’s positive case total may make it appear that Delaware is leveling out or seeing a decrease in the daily case count, however, that is not an accurate reflection of the situation in Delaware,” the Division of Public Health said Thursday. “The surveillance system is expected to be running normally tomorrow, and DPH anticipates seeing a significant increase in the overall number of cases once again.”

DPH said Friday 224 people are currently hospitalized in Delaware with COVID-19, with 64 critically ill.

Four hundred twenty-three Delawareans have recovered, according to DPH, meaning they have gone without symptoms for at least a week.

The latest deaths include a 46-year-old man from Sussex County who had no known health issues, a 73-year-old man from New Castle County, a 74-year-old man from New Castle County, an 80-year-old man from Sussex County, an 83-year-old man from New Castle County, an 85-year-old man from New Castle County, a 90-year-old man from New Castle County, a 91-year-old woman from Sussex County and a 98-year-old woman from Sussex County.

All but the 46- and 73-year-olds were in long-term care facilities.

Gov. John Carney said Friday the state has seen some positive signs, indicating social distancing mandates have had an impact. The hospitalization rate has been around 12 percent, he said, below the cautious 20 percent assumption state officials were using.

“We’re in pretty good shape there with respect to capacity,” Gov. Carney said in regard to hospitals during a briefing streamed online Friday. “What we might see and what we’ll expect to see, I think, is the need for additional hospital beds in the lower part of our state, and the available beds might actually be in the northern part of our state, so we’re working on that as well.”

President Donald Trump unveiled guidelines for reopening the country Thursday, including a documented decline in the trajectory and a strong testing system. Despite some steps in the right direction, Delaware has not yet beaten the virus, Gov. Carney said, and it can’t reopen until large-scale testing is available.

The state does not have enough tests at this point, he said.

Officials said the state has begun providing community testing in Sussex County, with special focus on the Hispanic community. There’s a large Hispanic population there, particularly around the Georgetown area, which has seen a sharp uptick in cases in recent days.

According to Gov. Carney, officials are working with the poultry industry both to offer testing to employees, many of whom are Hispanic, and to put protective measures in place in plants. The governor said he had a conference call with members of the industry Friday.

Even when Delaware can reopen the many businesses closed by the outbreak, things won’t just return to the way there were. Delawareans should be prepared to wear face coverings in public for a long time, for instance. They should also find a new way of greeting one another that doesn’t involve hand-to-hand contact, Gov. Carney cautioned, dryly noting how difficult it is to be a politician unable to shake hands.

“The choices ahead of us are going to be harder than the choices behind us,” the governor said.

Gov. Carney told CNN Thursday he expects the state will close schools for the remainder of the school year though a decision hasn’t been made yet. Friday, he emphasized the state is still hoping to get more information as the outbreak develops.

He closed schools for two weeks on March 13 and then extended that through at least May 15 10 days later. At the time, he recommended no district extend its calendar beyond June.

In response to a question Friday about Genesis Healthcare reporting a death toll that conflicts with the state’s at its Milford Center, Dr. Rattay said the facility is using different criteria for presumptive cases. DPH says there are 11 coronavirus-influenced deaths at the Milford Center, while Genesis said Thursday there have been 12 (at the time, DPH said there were eight).

“They’re using their own definitions. They’re not using CDC definitions, case definitions for COVID,” Dr. Rattay said. “They are using a long list of 17 symptoms to consider somebody a presumptive positive if they have one of those symptoms. Their numbers, they do not match ours at all.”

The agency was sending people down to the facility Friday to test those presumptive positive cases.

In total, there have been 114 positive cases of the virus in long-care term centers in the state, with 34 deaths. In addition to 11 deaths at the Milford Center, there have been 11 at Little Sisters of the Poor, four at Brandywine Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, two at Atlantic Shores Rehabilitation and Health Center and one at Governor Bacon Health Center.

Additionally, DPH said four facilities in New Castle and one in Sussex have had one death each, although it is only naming centers with multiple deaths. Governor Bacon appears to be an exception because it is run by the state.

Citing new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DPH last week started counting deaths of not just individuals with laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases but also those who had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and were exposed to a confirmed case but never tested.

Delaware announced its first laboratory-confirmed case March 11 and entered into a state of emergency two days later.

As of April 10, there were 1,326 occurrences and 32 deaths, with 450 cases and 14 deaths one week prior to that. Until Friday, April 8’s increase of 188 cases had been the largest bump from one day to the next.

Of the 2,323 COVID-19 cases, a total that includes current and former ones, there are 1,100 involving New Castle Countians, 811 involving Sussex Countians, 384 involving Kent Countians and 28 involving people whose residence is unknown.

Those who have had confirmed cases range in age from 0 to 98, with deaths involving people from ages 33 to 96, according to DPH. The vast majority of deaths have involved the elderly, with about half of those who have died being at least 80.

Individuals age 65 and up, a category the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say is at high-risk, represent about 18 percent of confirmed cases and 84 percent of deaths in Delaware so far.

There have been 1,053 cases involving males, 1,267 involving females and 3 involving a person of unknown gender.

As of Friday, there had been 11,694 negative test results, DPH said, although it cautions the figure is preliminary and should not be used as a substitute for the overall number of Delawareans who have been tested.

The division did not release many additional details involving the cases, citing health privacy laws.

Because of volume, the hospitalization and critically ill numbers now include non-Delawareans, although all other totals are just Delaware residents, according to DPH.

The state began requiring samples include patient race in addition to other demographic data like age last week.

Officials say everyone needs to avoid contact with others. Anyone who believes he or she may be sick should not go out except for medical appointments and should contact a primary care provider before heading to the emergency room or an urgent care center. A person experiencing a medical emergency such as significant trouble breathing should call 911.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, coughing, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or lack of appetite. People who are sick with any of those and need essential supplies should ask someone else to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy instead. They also are urged not to go to work.

Most people recover from COVID-19 with rest and hydration, though illness can be severe.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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