Largest COVID-19 increase yet as officials talk of coming surge

DOVER — Delaware saw its largest coronavirus increase yet Tuesday, with the count climbing from 783 to 928. The state also announced one more death, bringing that total to 16.

The Division of Public Health said 147 Delawareans are currently hospitalized, with 52 critically ill. However, 144 — basically double the number from Monday — have recovered, meaning they have been without symptoms at least a week.

The most recent death involves a 67-year-old man from Sussex County who had underlying health conditions and was hospitalized.

Those who have had laboratory-confirmed cases range in age from 1 to 97, and the 16 individuals who have died were all between 66 and 94 years old.

While the 145-case jump marks the biggest increase thus far, barely surpassing the 143-case rise on Saturday, it likely won’t remain that way for long. Officials have cautioned Delaware is set to go through its roughest period so far over the next two weeks, and according to a briefing from Gov. John Carney Tuesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency forecast has the count surpassing 3,200 by Sunday.

Although the coming surge threatens to flood Delaware’s hospitals, both top state officials and hospital executives say they are confident Delaware is prepared. As an illustration, a chart shared by Gov. Carney Tuesday predicts even though there will be more than 3,000 cases by Sunday, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients (643) will remain within bed capacity.

Officials are basing their decisions off the assumptions the case count will increase by 25 percent from one day to the next and one out of every five Delawareans with COVID-19 will need to be hospitalized, according to Delaware Emergency Management Agency Director A.J. Schall.

The numbers may be “frightening” to many, Gov. Carney said, emphasizing the importance of social distancing and remaining home. The governor issued a stay-at-home order and closed non-essential businesses starting March 22. A state of emergency began March 12.

By the beginning of next week, the state should begin to see the effects of those restrictions, Mr. Schall said.

If enough people have followed the mandate, Delaware may have been able to “bend the curve,” or greatly slow the spread of the virus.

“Our success in protecting Delawareans from the virus depends on each and every one of us,” the governor said.

Of the 928 COVID-19 cases, a total that includes people currently sick, those recovered and the deceased, there are 571 involving New Castle County residents, 210 involving Sussex County residents and 147 involving Kent County residents. That’s up 75, 51 and 19, respectively, from the day before.

The first laboratory-confirmed case was announced March 11, with the first official death coming 15 days later. There were 319 cases one week ago.

The count was less than 100 as recently as March 24, with 87.

DPH said Tuesday because of volume the hospitalization and critically ill numbers now include non-Delawareans, although all other totals are just Delaware residents. As following with its current practice, DPH did not release further information about the patients due to privacy laws.

As of Tuesday, there had been 7,628 negative test results, the agency said, although it cautions the figure is preliminary and should not be used as a substitute for the overall number of Delawareans who have been tested. Bayhealth said Tuesday it has tested 1,014 people.

While the elderly and those with serious health conditions, especially heart disease, lung issues, diabetes, severe obesity or a compromised immune system are most at risk from COVID-19, officials say everyone needs to avoid contact with others.

Anyone who believes he or she may be sick should not go out except for medical appointments and should contact a primary care provider before heading to the emergency room or an urgent care center. A person experiencing a medical emergency such as significant trouble breathing should call 911.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, coughing, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or lack of appetite. People who are sick with any of those and need essential supplies should ask someone else to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy instead. They also are urged not to go to work.

Most people recover from COVID-19 with rest and hydration, although illness can be severe.

Statewide testing at standing health facility sites is under way for patients with a doctor’s recommendation. Those without a primary care provider can contact DPH at 1-866-408-1899, but individuals should not just walk in. Bayhealth patients will be pre-screened via phone without needing to see a provider first.

DPH this week launched a partnership with the United Way of Delaware to triage incoming calls related to COVID-19. Anyone with a question about the virus should dial Delaware 2-1-1 (7-1-1 for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing) or text their ZIP code to 898-211.

The service can connect Delawareans with all sorts of assistance, including employment, mental health, food and housing.

In addition, the Division of Public Health asks any health care, long-term care, residential or other high-risk facility with questions or concerns to email DPH_PAC@delaware.gov or call the DPH Call Center at 1-866-408-1899 and press ext. 2.  

Health-related questions can also be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov.    

For the latest on Delaware’s response, go tode.gov/coronavirus.       

Medical marijuana

Basically every business has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, and medical marijuana is no exception: Columbia Care, which operates three of the six dispensaries in Delaware, began delivery this week.

Office of Medical Marijuana Director Paul Hyland said the change was made now to help patients who might be trapped at home because of the epidemic but was already being discussed with dispensaries.

“This is an accommodation under the Governor’s State of Emergency (SOE) declaration,” he said in a statement. “Once the SOE is over, the Office of Medical Marijuana will work to create the proper regulatory and operational framework to standardize delivery across the program.

“The Office of Medical Marijuana is not establishing this as a convenience option, but as a stop-gap system to allow homebound and the most vulnerable patients to obtain products safely.”


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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