Coronavirus total hits 87 as Carney declares public health emergency

DOVER — Delaware saw its coronavirus case count jump from 56 to 87 on Monday, while Gov. John Carney declared a public health emergency.

The declaration gives Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker more power in the fight to respond to the crisis. The Department of Health and Social Services, along with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, used that to loosen restrictions among health care providers, aiming to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed.

“We’re acting with urgency to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases that could overwhelm our hospital system,” Gov. Carney said in a statement. “These new orders will help make sure Delaware has the supplies and the health care professionals necessary to respond to COVID-19. I want to thank all of Delaware’s health care workers who are on the front lines of our response. We owe you all a debt of gratitude.

“We need everyone’s help. Delawareans should follow basic hygiene practices and stay home unless it’s essential to go out for work, or for the health and well-being of your family. We’ll get through this, but we all need to pitch in and take this threat seriously.”

The governor on Sunday issued an order instructing non-essential businesses to close at 8 a.m. Tuesday and Delawareans to stay at home except for necessary activities such as buying groceries, visiting a doctor or exercising. A list of essential industries is available at https://coronavirus.delaware.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/177/2020/03/Delaware-list-of-essential-and-nonessential-businesses-March-22-2020-2.pdf.

Of the 87 coronavirus cases, 58 are in New Castle County, 20 are in Sussex County and nine are in Kent County. They range in age from 1 to 90, officials said; 44 are male and 43 are female.

Seven people are hospitalized, with three critically ill.

Health authorities said the source of exposure for many positive cases is unknown, indicating community spread of the virus is occurring in the state.

To protect personal health information, the division will not disclose additional information about the individuals who have tested positive.

“We know this is a startling increase for Delawareans to see,” said Secretary Walker, a practicing family physician. “It is an indication of spread that we expected to see, but it is also reflective of the state’s increased testing capacity which is leading to more results — both positive and negative. It also shows us why we need Delawareans to stay home and stay safe. We all must end unnecessary contact with others, practice stringent social distancing, go out for essential groceries or prescriptions only as needed, and go to work only if we are in an essential business.”

Delaware announced its first coronavirus case March 11. Since then, the state has closed non-essential businesses, schools, the General Assembly and the courts, and daily life has basically ground to a halt for most Delawareans.

The declaration of a public health emergency enables nurses, doctors, psychiatrists and other health care professionals who have active licenses or certificates of good standing in any U.S. jurisdiction are to provide in-person health care or telemedicine in Delaware for the time being. It also activates Delaware health care professionals whose licenses expired in the last five years as long as their licenses were in good standing, and it gives medical students more ability to help out.

Delaware Family Court on Monday announced emergency rules for the duration of the crisis. The courts will accept emergency filings, including documents on protection from abuse, child welfare, custody or visitation, by email at FC_COVID19@delaware.gov. The courts are closed to the public except for the three 24-hour Justice of the Peace Courts.

Also Monday, Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns declared a civil emergency in the city, closing non-essential businesses at 4 p.m. that day and requiring residents remain home except for necessary activities. Mayor Kuhns said the restrictions were being put in place sooner because people have continued to gather in large groups despite warnings from health experts. The state’s beaches were closed over the weekend by the governor for a similar reason.

In Dover, the city will still be collecting trash and recycling on the regular schedule but will not be picking up bulk household trash or yard waste. City crews will monitor important systems such as water treatment plants.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, meanwhile, is closing state park campgrounds and playgrounds. It is also canceling reservations through May 15, with refunds to be issued.

While state parks and wildlife areas remain open, all campsites, cabins, cottages, yurts and playgrounds will close at 5 p.m. today. Park offices and nature centers remain closed, and programs and tours are canceled. Beach access at Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore and Fenwick Island state parks is prohibited at this time, although parking and fishing at the Indian River Inlet within Delaware Seashore State Park is currently allowed.

More than 300,000 cases of the virus have been reported globally, including in excess of 33,000 diagnoses and 400 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

Have a question about the coronavirus? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll ask the appropriate public officials.


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