Cornavirus cases climb to 26

Bayhealth staffers look at a computer monitor during a drive-up coronavirus testing at Dover International Speedway Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Delaware’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 26 on Wednesday, including the first reported case in Kent County.

Of the 26 cases, 20 involve people from New Castle County, three from Kent and three from Sussex. The individuals range in age from 18 to 80.

One of the Kent County residents with the virus is critically ill, the Division of Public Health said. Two other patients have been hospitalized.

“Today, we’re all experiencing a profound shock to our sense of normalcy,” Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker said in a livestream Wednesday morning, noting that it was just a week ago when Delaware announced its first laboratory-confirmed case on March 11.

The virus has drastically changed daily life around the world, including in the United States. About 7,000 cases have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 97 deaths.

Globally, there are more than 200,000 cases, with around 9,000 deaths.

A Bayhealth staff member talks with a driver during a drive up Corona Virus testing at Dover International Speedway on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DPH continues to urge people to limit social contact in general to protect themselves and to prevent transmitting the virus, especially to those most vulnerable.

“We need to act like we might be carrying the virus,” Secretary Walker said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference in Wilmington.

Individuals should avoid shaking hands and use good hygiene practices. They should embrace “social distancing” by avoiding large gatherings and staying six feet away from others.

While all Delawareans are encouraged to take those steps, it is especially important for individuals age 60 and older, as well as those with serious underlying health conditions. Such conditions include people who are immunocompromised or have diabetes or heart disease.

“We’d love to say it’s just for a few days, but this may be a way we need to adapt to living our lives for a while,” DPH Director Karyl Rattay said Wednesday. “It’s really important that we do everything we can to listen to what is advised. We’ve got to heed this call to action.”

Anyone who is sick, especially with shortness of breath or a fever and coughing, should stay home and contact his or her primary care provider. Individuals should not rush to the emergency room or an urgent care center.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has no vaccine at this time. Most people recover with rest and hydration, although illness can be severe in a segment of the population.

Testing for coronavirus disease is not recommended for people who do not have any symptoms of illness due to a shortage of supplies, officials have said.

It’s unclear exactly how many Delawareans have been tested, a process that involves using a swab to take a specimen from a patient’s nose. Several hospitals have held drive-through testing events, with ChristianaCare reporting 536 tests on Friday, and Beebe Healthcare 245 tests on Saturday. Individual doctors have taken samples from some Delaware residents.

DPH Medical Director Rick Hong said the division has seen approximately 100 negative tests, although most of the tests taken in Delaware are sent for analysis not to DPH’s lab in Smyrna but to commercial labs out of state. Samples are not collected from patients by DPH.

Individuals awaiting test results should wait to hear back from their medical provider.

Bayhealth estimated it saw about 100 people in its first testing event on Wednesday, part of a “dry-run” for future evaluations it plans to hold.

The organization has also created a telephone line individuals can call if they fear they have the coronavirus. That number is 310-8477, and it is staffed Monday through Friday from 8:15 to 6.

Callers that meet screening criteria for COVID-19 will be referred to a drive-through testing site.

ChristianaCare is running a center as well for individuals who are recommended to be tested.

Turnaround time after getting a sample is two to five days.

While the state is not releasing further information about the patients who have tested positive for the virus, several school districts Wednesday alerted their communities via letters on websites and social media that people connected to their schools had tested positive.

In a letter posted to the Milford School District’s website, the district said a parent who has children in Benjamin Banneker Elementary School and Avenue Preschool had tested positive.

The parent is isolated at home, the release stated.

Red Clay School District also announced someone in its school community tested positive for the virus, according to a letter from Superintendent Dorrell Green.

Gov. John Carney last week directed schools to close through at least March 27 to limit exposure to the virus.

Delawareans with general questions about COVID-19 or their exposure risk can call DPH at 1-866-408-1899 (711 for individuals who are hearing impaired) from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday or email DPHCall@delaware.gov.

For more information, visit de.gov/coronavirus.


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

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