Group’s data model shows worsening coronavirus situation in Del.

DOVER — As the Division of Public Health announced two new deaths and 69 additional positive cases in its daily COVID-19 update Thursday, a nonprofit warned of a potentially worsening situation in Delaware based on its most recent data model.

Citing information gathered through Wednesday, the nonprofit CovidActNow organization maintained that the First State is at risk of a coronavirus outbreak.

“COVID cases are either increasing at a rate likely to overwhelm hospitals and/or the state’s COVID preparedness is well below international standards,” according to a report posted online at covidactnow.org.

The group said it works in partnership with the Georgetown University Center for Global Health Science and Security, Stanford University Clinical Excellence Research Center, and Grand Rounds.

CovidActNow urged caution, publishing its findings that “On average, each person in Delaware with COVID is infecting 1.22 other people.

“As such, the total number of active cases in Delaware is growing at an unsustainable rate. If this trend continues, the hospital system may become overloaded.”

Group co-founder Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins said the infection rates represent the most important metric and the First State “was doing well in late May and early June but the current infection rate is a bit high compared to national trends.”

Spokeswoman Jennifer Brestel said the DPH could not comment on CovidActNow’s model “we have no experience with it. However, generally while models are useful to consider the possible future scenarios, they all are based on assumptions that may or may not be accurate.

“We utilize similar information and consider their implications in a broader context.”

DPH reported 63 hospitalizations as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, an increase of six from the previous report. There were also 50 more persons considered recovered.

The two most recent deaths — upping the state’s total to 517 — involved a male and female from New Castle and Sussex counties ranging in age from 74 to 94. One victim had underlying health conditions, the DPH said.

Since March 11, 249 persons from New Castle County have died, 176 from Sussex County and 92 from Kent County. So far, 273 females and 244 males have perished.

The most recent deaths announced today ranged in age from 74 to 94. One individual was female and one was male. One individual was a resident of New Castle County and one was a resident of Sussex County. One individual had underlying health conditions.

DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.

Calculating infection rates

CovidActNow said it transitioned to an infection growth rate R(t) calculation based only on cases, rather than cases and deaths. The move was made “to better serve lower population regions and regions with lower case counts, as well as to improve the timeliness of our R(t) metric,” according to authors Alex MacAulay, Debbie Lai, and Igor Kofman.

“We want to let people know faster when COVID is growing or shrinking in their communities, so that they have the most up-to-date information on how policies and actions can achieve different outcomes.”

The DPH said the percentage of positive cases is based on the number of positive cases over the total test results reported to the state. The daily percentage is calculated based on results reported to the DPH that day, along with a five-day rolling average.

Daily trends and averages are found on the My Healthy Community data site – de.gov/healthycommunity under the Percentage of Persons Tested Positive Graph in the overview section.

“We look at trends over a few days as well as over time, and also look at positivity rates in various zip codes as well for more localaized infection rates,” Ms. Brestel said.

Other determinations, according to CovidActNow, included:

• A significant percentage (5.5%) of COVID tests were positive, meaning that Delaware’s testing meets WHO minimums but needs to be further expanded to detect most new cases. Identifying and isolating new cases can help contain COVID without resorting to lockdowns.

• Delaware has about 259 ICU beds. Based on best available data, an estimated 43% (111) are currently occupied by non-COVID patients. Of the 148 ICU beds remaining, 15 are needed by COVID cases, or 10% of available beds. This suggests there is likely enough capacity to absorb a wave of new COVID infections.

• Per best available data, Delaware has 116 contact tracers. With an average of 134 new daily cases, we estimate Delaware needs 670 contact tracing staff to trace all new cases in 48 hours, before too many other people are infected. This means that Delaware is likely able to trace only 17% of new COVID infections in 48 hours. These low levels of tracing suggest there may be an active outbreak underway in Delaware, or that little tracing capacity exists. Strong caution warranted.

• Assuming current trends and interventions continue, Delaware hospitals are unlikely to become overloaded in the next 30 days. However, any reopening should happen in a slow and phased fashion.

The DPH maintained that the CovidActNow contact tracing metric was not accurate.

“Through our new contact tracing program with NORC at the University of Chicago, we have the capacity to contact all positive cases and contacts,” Ms. Brestel said.

Regardless of population, Mr. Kreiss-Tomkins, a member of the Alaska House of Representatives, said “most of the data is pretty resilient. Areas that get tricky are ones with low levels of COVID cases where it can be a bit harder to get signals from the data.

“As far as Delaware goes I’m not aware of any flags from out engineering and modeling teams.”

According to Mr. Kreiss-Tomkins, the nonprofit has communicated with Delaware health officials “in ways direct and indirectly.” On a national level, CovidActNow interacted with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, which shares it’s findings with states.

State governors — in Kentucky and Michigan among them — referenced the nonprofit’s findings as state at home orders were being issues in March, Mr. Kreiss-Tomkins said.

“It’s helped them make informed decisions,” he said.

DOC continues response

On Thursday, the Delaware Department of Correction said it continues to “aggressively” test, trace, clean and treat to combat inmate COVID-19 cases at Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown.

Last week, the DOC announced that after six weeks with no inmates testing positive for COVID-19 in any of the state’s correctional facilities, a cluster of inmate cases was identified at SCI, the first inmate cases at that facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every inmate at SCI is being tested as part of our comprehensive COVID-19 mitigation efforts at that facility, and because the illness is present in several housing units, we know that the number of positive test results will grow,” DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said in a statement.“Three-quarters of the COVID-positive inmates have no symptoms of illness, and thanks to our proactive testing we are identifying these inmates early.”

“We are prepared to isolate and treat every COVID-positive inmate, in collaboration with our correctional health care provider. We are activating a COVID-19 Treatment Center at SCI this week and are continuing to work aggressively to contain and eradicate the illness at that facility.”

As of Wednesday, 122 inmates have active COVID-19 infections, including 95 who are asymptomatic of illness and 27 who are symptomatic. A total of 119 are from SCI and three are from Morris Community Corrections Center in Dover, according to the DOC.

Preliminary indications suggest the MCCC inmates who tested positive this week can be traced to inmates who had recently arrived from SCI and tested positive for COVID-19 while being quarantined during intake, the DOC said in a news release.

A total of 70 COVID-positive inmates have been transferred to the COVID-19 Treatment Center at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, one is being treated in the JTVCC infirmary, and three are being treated in stable condition in area hospitals. There have been 48 SCI inmates who most recently tested positive being held in isolation and will be moved to the SCI COVID-19 Treatment Center this week.

Currently across all correctional facilities, the DOC said 22 staff and three health care contractors have tested positive for COVID-19, while 87 DOC staff and health care contractors assigned to DOC facilities have recovered from the illness. No additional information will be provided about the identity of the inmates or staff members for privacy protection.


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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