More than 400 new coronavirus cases, second-largest increase so far

Two shoppers wearing protective masks unload their cart at Target in Dover on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Delaware announced one of its largest day-to-day increases in COVID-19 cases took place Monday, with an additional 413. The state is now at 4,575 laboratory-confirmed cases, according to the Division of Public Health, and after 12 more deaths, 137 fatalities related to the virus.

As of 6 p.m. Monday, 337 people were hospitalized in Delaware from coronavirus-related issues, with 60 critically ill. DPH said 1,096 individuals have recovered, meaning they have gone without symptoms for at least a week.

Both the case and death totals have doubled over the past eight days.

Tuesday was the first day Delaware’s mask mandate took effect: Under the order from Gov. John Carney, Delawareans must wear face coverings of some kind in public.

Officials continue to slowly plot out a recovery, even as they caution the state is still several steps away from beginning the process in earnest.

“The reality is this is probably going to be the way of life for us for quite some time until a vaccine is widespread,” DPH Director Karyl Rattay said in a news conference Tuesday.

The new release represents the second-largest bump so far, behind only the increase of 458 cases on Saturday (which was announced Sunday, as DPH now sends out information for the day before).

Based on guidance from the White House, Delaware wants to see 14 consecutive days of cases declining. Because the big jump in positive tests is partially a result of the fact more testing is being done, Gov. Carney plans to use as his metric not new cases but percentage of tests that are positive.

Asked Tuesday about businesses not enforcing the face covering requirement, the governor described it as a key step to halting the coronavirus.

“The best things we can do now and in the weeks ahead to create conditions where businesses can actually be open is to reduce and prevent the spread,” he said.

Even improvised cloth coverings are important to stop COVID-19, Dr. Rattay said, emphasizing the fact the virus can be spread by asymptomatic carriers.

In addition to the downward trend, the state still needs to further increase its testing capabilities, hire around 200 contact tracers and ensure it remains below hospital capacity before it can start to reopen.

Delaware’s first official coronavirus case came on March 11, with the first death announced March 26.

As of April 20, one week before the latest day for which there is data, the state had seen 2,931 cases and 82 deaths. There were 1,761 cases and 41 deaths one week prior to that.

Delaware was under 1,000 cases as recently as April 7.

A shopper wearing a face mask walks out of Target in Dover on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Projections shared by state officials Tuesday estimate the state will add more than 1,000 cases over the next few days.

Most of the increase is attributable to Sussex County, which has now seen 2,114 cases and 50 deaths. Many of those positive cases are clustered in the greater Georgetown area, and state officials have said some involve Hispanic workers at poultry plants in the area, though they won’t say how many.

There have been 1,701 cases and 63 deaths involving New Castle County, with 728 cases and 23 deaths involving Kent County. In 32 cases and one death, the patient’s home is unknown.

Eight ZIP codes in the state have an incidence rate of more than 1 percent, including two around 3 percent. All eight are in Sussex, with the two areas with the highest concentration located in the county’s central portion.

Put another way, Sussex has about 24 percent of the state’s population — and 46 percent of its COVID-19 cases.

The 12 new deaths include six men and six women, with the individuals ranging in age from 60 to 101. Six were New Castle residents, five were Sussex residents and one lived in an unknown area.

Only eight of the 12 had underlying health conditions.

DPH has stopped offering information on specific deaths, announcing Saturday it will not be providing the age, gender and location of each victim.

“As we now have over 100 deaths, tracking specific information for individual deaths gets more challenging and we want to make sure our information is accurate,” DPH spokeswoman Stacey Hofmann wrote in an email Monday. “The long-term care section was removed Saturday, but we may look to provide it weekly rather than daily moving forward.

“We are evaluating that, but we want to make sure we are sharing information in a way that limits potential errors, is accurate to the best of our knowledge and provides information that is truly valuable to Delawareans.”

Eighty-six deaths have involved residents of long-term facilities, including nine announced Tuesday.

Statewide, those who have had confirmed cases range in age from less than a year old to 103, with deaths involving people from ages 32 to 103, according to DPH. The vast majority of people who died were elderly.

In all, there have been 2,083 cases and 68 deaths involving males, 2,456 cases and 69 deaths involving females and 36 cases involving a person of unknown gender.

Of the 4,575 total cases, 1,250 have involved black Delawareans, 1,145 have involved white Delawareans, 865 have involved Hispanics or Latinos, 61 have involved individuals of Asian or Pacific Islander descent and 234 have involved people from another race or multiple races. In 1,020 instances, race is unknown.

Adjusted for population size, whites in Delaware are almost six times less likely than Hispanics and more than three times less likely than blacks to have COVID-19.

Seventy-eight people who died were white, 34 were black, five were Hispanic or Latino, three belonged to another race or multiple races and 17 were of an unknown race.

There have been 16,605 negative test results, DPH 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.

Based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Delaware is counting deaths of not just individuals with laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases but also people who had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and were exposed to a confirmed case 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 the agency.

As usual, DPH did not release additional details about the cases Tuesday, citing health privacy laws.

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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