Delaware officials see rise in Sussex coronavirus cases

WILMINGTON — As COVID-19 cases level off in New Castle County, the lower portion of the state is now seeing elevated levels of the virus.

Sussex County is posting the highest positive case rates in the state and is experiencing a steady rise in hospitalizations. The county has had the highest rate of cases per 100,000 people and is averaging 40.3 new cases per day over the last seven days.

“A lot of our cases, disproportionately, are coming from the lower part of our state,” Gov. John Carney said at his weekly COVID-19 press briefing Tuesday. “It’s an area of concern and it does point in the direction of Sussex County. Not any one place in particular there in Sussex, but there are higher levels.”

The amount of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 has more than doubled in Sussex County over the last two weeks. The Delaware Division of Public Health reported 41 current hospitalizations in the county on Tuesday, reflecting data as of 6 p.m. on Monday.

The seven-day rolling average for positive tests in Sussex County is at 4.9% while the seven-day rolling average of persons testing positive, where each person is counted once regardless of how often they’ve been tested, is at 9%. Both of those marks are the highest in the state by county.

DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said the current areas of concern are all Downstate, naming Seaford, Delmar, Selbyville, Greenwood, Bridgeville, Milton, Felton and Frederica as areas which have seen elevated levels of COVID-19 over the past week.

The state is running six additional free pop-up testing sites Downstate in response to these clusters. Pop-up testing sites this week in Sussex County are:

• Epworth UM Church in Rehoboth Beach from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m today.

• North Laurel Elementary School in Laurel from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

• Mariner Middle School in Milton from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. today.

• Delaware Tech’s Owens Campus in Georgetown from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday.

• Woodbridge Middle School in Bridgeville from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday.

• Lake Forest North Elementary School in Felton from 2 to 6 p.m. Friday.

It is recommended to register in advance for these tests at delaware.curative.inc, but not required. A full list of testing sites is available at de.gov/gettested.

“We really want to encourage community partners and individuals themselves to really get the word out and take advantage of the testing that’s available right now,” Dr. Rattay said. “As always, the more testing we can do, the more cases we can identify and isolate, the better we can do in decreasing the spread of this infection.”

Newark and Wilmington were no longer listed in the DPH’s weekly areas of concern as the upstate cluster of cases, which DPH attributed mostly to the University of Delaware, has gone away.

New Castle County’s hospitalizations have decreased by 22 over the last seven days, down to 55. The county’s seven-day rolling average of positive tests is 2.6% while the seven-day rolling average for persons testing positive is at 5.6%. Both are the best such rates of the state’s three counties.

“The surge we saw several weeks ago at the University of Delaware has seemed to have passed us by,” Gov. Carney said. “Thank God, we don’t want to spike the ball there just yet but there’s been really good cooperation between the University of Delaware, the city of Newark and our teams in Public Health.”

Kent County has routinely posted the lowest rate of cases per population and while it still did this week, Dr. Rattay noted the county experienced its highest increase in cases this week.

Kent County’s positivity rates are similar to New Castle County’s with a 2.8% seven-day rolling average of percentage of positive tests and a 6% seven-day rolling average of persons testing positive.

There are currently 11 individuals hospitalized in Kent County with COVID-19, an increase of four compared to last week. Statewide, there are 107 COVID-19 hospitalizations with 25 considered critical.

The DPH also announced two additional COVID-19-related deaths in Tuesday’s report. This raises Delaware’s death toll due to the virus to 668.

One of the most recent deaths was a Sussex County resident while the other was from New Castle County. They ranged in age from 50 years old to 74 years old and both had underlying health conditions, according to the DPH. Neither was a resident of a long-term care center.

The DPH reported 117 new positive cases of the virus, bringing the state’s total to 23,325. There were 1,579 more negative tests to increase Delaware’s total to 307,401 while an additional 132 cases are now listed as recovered to raise that total to 12,245.

The DPH also published its data for the week of Oct. 10 to Oct. 17, which showed the top-five venues where persons who tested positive visited in the 14 days prior to their diagnosis were restaurants, religious services, beaches, weddings and gyms, in that order.

“This virus doesn’t care if it’s a wedding or anything else,” Gov. Carney said. “We might be tired of COVID, but COVID isn’t tired of us.”

Dr. Rattay said the DPH has found two weddings and two religious services over the last couple of weeks which have led to clusters of outbreaks.

“We can’t emphasize enough how incredibly important it is to be cautious and to take precautions especially when indoors,” Dr. Rattay said.

“Really, avoid indoor gatherings as much as possible. For any indoor activity if you’re with people who are not your household contacts, you got to wear a face covering and you got to social distance. We are seeing story after story, case after cases, cluster after cluster of infections that are spreading through these non-complaint activities which are indoors.”

The state also announced its app, COVID-19 Alert DE, has surpassed more than 50,000 downloads among Delawareans.

The app, which is available in the Apple app store or on Google Play, runs in the background and can send anonymous exposure notification alert if the user is identified as a close contact of a COVID-positive individual in Delaware or three other states (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania).

Gov. Carney’s office said about 9% of people who tested positive and were interviewed by members of Delaware’s Contact Tracing Team since the exposure notification app was launched on Sept. 15 have said they downloaded the app. Among their close contacts, 16% told contact tracers they also had COVID Alert DE on their phones, according to Gov. Carney’s office.

“COVID Alert DE is another tool to help slow the spread of the virus in our state,” Gov. Carney said. “As more and more Delawareans download the app, we know that it is successfully supplementing our contract tracing efforts through anonymous and secure exposure alerts. That will help us keep our transmission rates low going forward – and make even more progress getting more children back to school, and more Delawareans back to work.”


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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