Coronavirus cases hit 39 as unemployment claims skyrocket

Employees for Cape Henlopen State Park, listen to Delaware Governor John Carney during Friday’s press conference regarding the coronavirus outside of the Biden Center at the park in Lewes. (Special to the Delaware State News/Butch Comegys)

DOVER — The number of coronavirus cases in Delaware continued to climb Friday, driving an unprecedented number of unemployment claims.

There are officially 39 cases of COVID-19 in the state, the Division of Public Health said, up from 30 the day before.

Four people are hospitalized, with two critically ill, an increase of one from Thursday.

Of the Delawareans diagnosed with COVID-19, 27 are from New Castle County, five live in Kent County and seven reside in Sussex County. They range in age from 14 to 80.

The state announced its first case March 11.

The effects of the virus are being felt across the state and in almost every aspect of life. In particular, Delaware has set a record for initial unemployment claims for a month — in three days.

While the exact unemployment numbers won’t be released until next month, Kenneth Briscoe, a spokesman for the Department of Labor, said Thursday the previous three days had seen more claims than the 9,632 filed in January 2002.

That number was the most since 1990.

Many businesses have closed their doors temporarily because of the virus and resulting restrictions, such as forbidding restaurants from serving meals on the premises.

The state also announced on Friday a plan to test individuals with COVID-19 symptoms at no cost to patients. Starting Monday, there will be seven standing health facility sites for people to be tested on a doctor’s order.

ChristianaCare will operate one site in Newark and one in Wilmington, with Saint Francis Healthcare running another site in Wilmington. In Dover, Bayhealth will handle the procedures. Beebe Healthcare will have testing sites in Millsboro and Frankford, while Nanticoke will operate one in Seaford.

Individuals who do not have access to a health care provider can call the state’s special hotline at 1-866-408-1899 or call centers run by Christiana Care or Bayhealth.

“As this situation continues to evolve, we know that we will continue to see an increase in positive cases of the virus. It is critically important that we all work together to reduce the burden on our health system and keep Delawareans safe,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement.

“Our goal right now is to limit the spread of the virus. The community-based testing plan we are announcing today builds on our already established infrastructure in Delaware’s health system in an effort to make testing more readily accessible for those in need.”

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.

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

The courts saw a scare Friday, prompting the Georgetown Family Court building to close after an employee became sick with symptoms similar to those caused by coronavirus. A few hours after making the initial announcement, the judiciary said the individual was found not to have the virus.

The person was transported to a medical facility in an ambulance Friday morning and the court was immediately cleared and cleaned.

The Department of Insurance is urging health insurers to waive all prior authorization requirements and not to cancel plans due to nonpayment while the coronavirus keeps Delaware in a state of emergency.

Prior authorization mandates mean individuals must have certain procedures approved by an insurance company before being treated, which can lead to delays.

“Many companies have had to close or reduce their business, and employees have been laid off or fired as a result,” Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro said in a statement. “After hearing from businesses and residents who were concerned about the choices they will have to make with limited finances, we ask insurers to help alleviate some of that stress and ensure that residents and business owners in this difficult situation can have the peace of mind that insurance provides throughout the duration of the emergency.”

The state announced temporary changes to telemedicine this week to help doctors serve more patients.

Delaware has been in a state of emergency since March 13.

Because of the virus, Delawareans are urged to stay home as much as possible and avoid contact with others. People who are sick, especially with shortness of breath or a fever and coughing, should stay home and contact their primary care provider instead of first heading to the emergency room or an urgent care center. A person experiencing a medical emergency such as significant trouble breathing should call 911.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, does not have a vaccine yet. Most people recover with rest and hydration, although illness can be severe in a segment of the population. The elderly and people with underlying health conditions are most at risk.

More than 260,000 cases of the virus have been reported globally, with more than 15,000 diagnoses and 200 deaths in the United States.

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
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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