Largest increase yet in virus cases: State total climbs from 393 to 450 in one day

Shown on a screen shot, Gov. John Carney speaks from Wilmington during Friday’s COVID-19 briefing. Delaware State News.Marc Clery

DOVER — Delaware saw its largest day-to-day increase in official coronavirus cases Friday, climbing from 393 to 450. The death total also rose from 12 to 14.

Unfortunately for Delawareans, the count is only going to keep growing — and fast, with the peak expected in the next two weeks, according to Gov. John Carney.

Per a graph presented by the governor in a Friday livestream, the state could surpass 2,000 cases this time next week, with more than 700 hospitalizations.

“The slope of that graph depends on our ability to enforce the restrictions around movement, social gathering and social distancing. … If we can’t, it’s going to go up,” the governor said.

The Division of Public Health said 63 Delawareans are hospitalized from the virus, with 23 critically ill. Seventy-one people have recovered, meaning they have gone without symptoms for at least a week, according to DPH. Both they and individuals who died are still included in the overall count.

The state has seen its coronavirus count climb from 165 one week ago. It was less than 100 as recently as March 24, with 87.

The first laboratory-confirmed case was announced March 11, with the first official death coming 15 days later.

Eight of the deceased were in long-term care facilities, including six at the Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence in Newark. The two newest deaths involve a 66-year-old woman from New Castle who was hospitalized and a 91-year-old woman from New Castle. Both were in nursing homes and had underlying conditions.

DPH requests any Delaware long-term care facility with questions or concerns email DPH_PAC@delaware.gov or call 1-866-408-1899 and press ext. 2.

Gov. Carney has described the potential spread of the virus in nursing homes as perhaps his biggest concern.

The share of COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized is crucial, with the state bracing for a potential surge that could overwhelm its health care system.

“We’re following and making our decisions on the hospitalization rate,” Gov. Carney said.

State officials have emphasized how important staying home is, and life in Delaware has changed profoundly for most as a result. Delaware has been in a state of emergency since March 12, and Gov. John Carney last week closed non-essential businesses and instructed residents to stay home except for necessary activities like visiting a doctor, exercising or buying groceries.

Under an order from the governor this week, out-of-state residents also must quarantine themselves alone for two weeks when they enter Delaware, although there are exceptions for people just passing through, those traveling to care for family and individuals needing medical care.

Gov. Carney has cautioned this week the state will be enforcing those restrictions, which could mean fines (or technically even jail time) for people and shutdown orders or other penalties for businesses.

Businesses that are allowed to remain open must implement strict social distancing policies.

“We’re now requiring screening for anyone who goes into a high risk, essential business like any kind of health care facility or congregate setting,” DPH Director Karyl Rattay said Friday.

Although 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, officials say everyone needs to avoid contact with others.

Of the 450 cases, 115 involve people older than 65, while 205 have been confirmed in Delawareans ages 18 to 49.

As of Friday, there had been 4,995 negative test results, DPH said, although it cautions the figure is preliminary and should not be used as a substitute for the number of people who have been tested.

DPH said it cannot release or confirm further information about the patients.

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 in a segment of the population.

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 1-888-408-1899, but individuals should not just walk in. Bayhealth patients will be pre-screened via phone without needing to see a provider first.

Also Friday, the Department of Correction announced a contracted health care professional assigned to New Castle County Community Corrections has tested positive for COVID-19. The worker has been self-isolating for the past 18 days and was last in NCCC facilities March 16.

No other agency employees, contract workers or inmates at NCCC facilities are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, and no NCCC inmates are currently isolated with symptoms, the department said. This is the first coronavirus diagnosis for anyone in or working in Delaware’s correctional system.

“This contract health care professional made the exact right decision to stay home from work 18 days ago when symptoms of the virus first developed, and to seek medical attention and testing when those symptoms worsened,” Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said in a statement. “Because of those smart decisions, there is no threat from this COVID-19 diagnosis to DOC officers, staff or offenders. We will continue to take every precaution to protect all of our people as this virus spreads in the community.”

For general questions about COVID-19 or exposure risk, 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
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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