Coronavirus set to peak in Delaware in coming weeks, predictions say

DOVER — Brace yourselves, Delaware: The coronavirus is expected to peak this month, according to Gov. John Carney and a model on the outbreak — and as a potential surge nears, the state plans to start enforcing the stay-at-home mandate more strictly.

Delaware could see more than 2,000 or even 3,000 coronavirus cases in the next week or two, the governor said Tuesday.

That prediction, which is based off numbers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has the virus causing around 400 or 500 hospitalizations with an unknown number of deaths, he said. The data was revised after being received from FEMA because the initial estimate was “ridiculously high,” Gov. Carney said.

A model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, meanwhile, has the outbreak peaking in Delaware in mid-April and causing 240 deaths by August.

The institute, which is part of the University of Washington, predicts COVID-19 will have the biggest impact here from about April 13 to 23. During that time, deaths could rise to eight a day and the number of beds needed could eclipse those available in state hospitals.

On the peak day of April 18, according to the forecast, 754 beds will be needed — 58 more than available. The 116 intensive care beds the model says will be required that day is nearly triple the 41 it says will be available.

As of Tuesday, the state has seen 319 COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths. The 55-person increase announced Tuesday is the largest so far, although it probably won’t stay that way for long.

Delaware’s coronavirus count was 87 just one week earlier.

Nationally, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model says there will most likely be almost 84,000 deaths in the United States by the start of August, although the growth rate essentially becomes flat by early June. It predicts deaths will peak on April 15 with slightly more than 2,200 that day.

The projections have been cited by White House health officials as some of the best available.

The forecast uses data on confirmed COVID-19 deaths from government agencies, hospitals and other sources to predict how the next four months could play out. It does include a range, suggesting the death total for Delaware could be anywhere from 125 to 480 come August.

The outcome is still uncertain, in part because it remains to be seen how effective preventative measures have been.

Delaware has been fairly aggressive so far, with the governor declaring a state of emergency when the first case was announced March 11. Schools have been on break for weeks, and Gov. Carney last week closed all non-essential businesses and instructed residents to stay home except for necessary activities like visiting a doctor, exercising or buying groceries.

But some people, both nationally and in Delaware, have flouted the restrictions, causing exasperation and anger for government decision-makers and health experts.

“As I travel up and down the state, I see too many people out even though we have a stay-at-home order,” Gov. Carney said.

Because of that, he intends to step up enforcement, using a mix of police and regulators to change behavior. Essential businesses that are doing a poor job of following the limitations, like allowing a large number of people inside at once, could face penalties.

Delaware law gives the governor the ability to instruct troopers and local police to enforce the state of emergency. Violation of an emergency order, per a statute, carries a six-month prison term or $500 fine.

“The ones that are not doing it so well, we’ve got to somehow get the message across,” Gov. Carney said.

As the surge comes, perhaps Gov. Carney’s biggest worry is keeping the hospitalization rate down. A key part of that is preventing the virus from spreading to high-risk populations, chiefly the elderly or those with serious health conditions, in the first place.

Should hospitals be flooded by patients (including a few from other states, mostly at ChristianaCare), more health care workers could come down with the virus, which would in turn reduce the number of people that can be treated.

Staffing every room, especially at the mobile hospital units the state plans to establish, is one of the governor’s chief concerns, but supply levels and even whether health care workers can find daycare for their children matter as well.

“All of those things are limiting factors,” Gov. Carney said.

Delaware should soon have at least 550 ventilators: 400-plus from hospitals, 100 or 200 that were sitting in a state warehouse for years and are being refurbished with help from Bloom Energy and another 50 the state purchased, according to Gov. Carney.

People around the state and country are donating and making masks and other protective gear for health care workers, who are battling a serious shortage.

“We go through personal protective equipment really, really fast, so you’re talking about thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of masks, of shields, gloves,” the governor said.

Delawareans may find the restrictions to be disruptive (or worse), but they should heed warnings — everyone needs to do their part to help stop the spread, officials have emphasized.

“Everything that we’re doing to restrict people’s activity and to shut down the economy is to save lives in the long term,” Gov. Carney said.


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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