COVID-19 continues to plague nursing homes as state passes 8,500 total cases

DOVER — Delaware’s new COVID-19 deaths continue to largely stem from long-term care centers.

According to Friday’s update from the Division of Public Health, which covered up through 6 p.m. the previous day, Delaware has seen 8,529 total positive cases and 322 related deaths. Of those 322 deaths, 208 — 65 percent — involved residents of long-term care centers.

In all, 607 residents have tested positive for the virus.

A spokeswoman for DPH said the agency is not tracking cases among employees of long-term care centers, although it did early in the outbreak.

Officials said 75 percent of care centers in the state have signed up for voluntary testing as of Thursday. Beginning June 1, all long-term care centers will be required to test employees on a weekly basis.

According to the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, there are 46 such facilities in Delaware. Together, they house about 4,200 people and employ almost 4,800, the two organizations said.

Delaware’s first official coronavirus case was announced March 11. There were 7,465 cases, 269 hospitalizations and 271 deaths one week ago and 3,550 cases, 277 hospitalizations and 100 deaths as of April 23, four weeks before the latest data.

According to DPH, 221 people were hospitalized from COVID-19, with 44 critically ill, as of 6 p.m. Thursday. In total, 4,296 Delawareans are considered recovered, meaning they’ve gone a week without symptoms.

With trends like new hospitalizations and percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 heading in the right direction, Gov. John Carney has loosened some restrictions and announced plans to ease up on other limits, such as opening the beaches Friday.

Beachgoers must still social distance and when on the boardwalk must wear a mask. Out-of-state residents are only allowed if they have already quarantined in Delaware for two weeks.

“We’re going to be paying very close attention to the situation on the beaches this weekend to learn what works and what doesn’t work,” Gov. Carney said Friday.

He also indicated the state will be reevaluating the ban on short-term rentals and could make an announcement about that in the next few days.

Anyone with complaints about out-of-state individuals violating the state of emergency order or public gathering restriction should contact state or local law enforcement. Concerns that a business may be violating operating restrictions should be directed to HSPContact@delaware.gov, while questions related to business operations should go to COVID19FAQ@delaware.gov.

A key part of stemming the spread, officials say, is widespread testing and contact tracing. Delaware is aiming to establish a more robust and proactive testing system, including offering general testing events as well as ones geared toward specific vulnerable individuals such as elderly and low-income people. About 1,500 individuals took part in the first two rounds.

Testing times and locations are posted at coronavirus.delaware.gov/testing.

The next scheduled event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Department of Transportation Administration Building in Dover. Preregistering at delaware.curativeinc.com is strongly encouraged, although limited on-site registration will be available.

The tests are saliva-based and can produce results rapidly.

DPH said it will release testing guidance for businesses soon.

Individuals can learn more about contact tracing at coronavirus.delaware.gov/contact-tracing and apply to be contact tracers at norc.org/WorkingAtNORC.

“We know that widespread community testing needs to be in place before we can safely reopen our economy. With the help of our partners, I am confident that we have put a plan in place that gets us to the starting line,” Gov. Carney said. “Through this collaborative effort, we will be able to diagnose symptomatic Delawareans and detect asymptomatic spread with this community-based strategy.

“I want to thank all of our partners who are stepping up for their fellow Delawareans during this crisis. Delawareans should continue to stay vigilant. Keep your distance from others. Wear a face covering in public settings, including on the boardwalk. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently. Now is not the time to let up.”

More coronavirus statistics

So far, about 0.89 percent of Delawareans, or 89 people for every 10,000 residents, have tested positive for the virus. DPH said there have been 48,986 tests, although that figure is preliminary and does not include an unknown number of results that are pending.

Despite having just 24 percent of the state’s population, Sussex has seen 48 percent of its COVID-19 cases. The southernmost county has 4,048 total cases and 119 deaths, compared to 3,132 and 146 in the more populous New Castle. There have been 1,296 cases and 56 deaths involving Kent County.

Additionally, the addresses for 53 people with the virus, including one who died, have not yet been identified.

The outbreak has been particularly severe in the greater Georgetown area: About 14.1 percent of people in the 19947 ZIP code have been tested, and 5.5 percent of residents there have had confirmed coronavirus cases.

Many of the Sussex cases involve workers at poultry plants or their family members. The state has conducted testing in most plants, with just one left, Gov. Carney said Friday. In all, at least 5,000 employees there have been screened for the virus, according to the governor.

The deaths announced Friday involve three women and two men ranging in age from 39 to 90. Two lived in New Castle, two lived in Sussex and one lived in Kent.

One had no underlying health conditions, a description that fits 61 of the 322 people to die so far (19 percent).

Three of the five were in long-term care facilities.

Of the 208 deaths involving people living in nursing homes, 43 were at Genesis Healthcare’s Milford and Brackenville centers. One hundred thirty-nine fatalities, or two-thirds, involved residents at the nine places with double-digit deaths so far.

Thirty facilities have reported at least one death tied to the virus.

Statewide, Delawareans who have had confirmed cases range in age from less than a year old to 103, with deaths involving people from 21 to 103, according to DPH. Just 5 percent of deaths involved people younger than 50 even though 58 percent of Delawareans who have caught the virus fit that description.

Whites in Delaware are almost three times less likely than blacks and more than seven times less likely than Hispanics to have COVID-19. However, although whites, blacks and Hispanics each represent a little more than a quarter of the coronavirus cases here, whites make up 61 percent of deaths, while Hispanics account for just 7 percent.

Based on guidance from the federal government, Delaware is counting deaths of individuals with laboratory-confirmed cases and people who had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and exposed but never tested.

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


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 1 guidance

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