State adds 67 people to COVID death toll, young people urged to seek testing

A National Guardsman hands a driver a COVID-19 test kit at Whatcoat United Methodist Church in Camden on June 16.

DOVER — The state added 67 people to its COVID-19 death toll Tuesday after reviewing data from April and urged young people to social distance and seek testing given the rising number of positive cases in that age group.

Of the new deaths not previously reported, Delaware Division of Health said 75% were senior citizens in long-term care facilities.

Chiefly as a result of the state identifying deaths not previously reported as coronavirus-related, the death count grew from 435 to 504. New positive cases increased by 27 for a total of 10,847 total cases as of 6 p.m. Monday; 91 people were hospitalized at that time and 15 critically ill.

A total of 6,554 Delawareans had recovered, meaning they had gone at least a week without symptoms.

Delaware’s Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said the move to review the death certificate records from the Delaware Vital Events Registration System and epidemiological surveillance data “was part of our quality control practice…”

“It’s very, very important to mention, these are not new deaths. These are deaths that have occurred from the very beginning of this pandemic,” she said.

Of those 67 deaths “32 were cases that we had in our system that we knew were positive. We just did not know the person was deceased,” she said.

The other 35 were people who died with COVID-19 as an underlying cause but for whom there was no positive lab result.

“By CDC definition those cases are also considered COVID-19 deaths,” Dr. Rattay said, but “because those 35 don’t have positive lab results, in our system they are considered probable COVID-19 deaths.”

At his coronavirus briefing Tuesday, Gov. John Carney’s focus began to shift from the elderly to the young.

He said Delaware is starting to experience the nationwide increase in the number of young people infected with the virus. Many are asymptomatic and can spread it easily without knowing.

“I think it’s indicative, again anecdotally… of young people eager to get back outside and back to the beaches and inside to restaurants and the bars,” he said.

One example of that was the recent wave of graduates flocking to Delaware’s beaches for Senior Week.

“We became aware of some positive cases in one house last week,” said Dr. Rattay.

“Four individuals in one rental unit became positive, three individuals in another rental unit now have tested positive and there’s another unrelated case who also attended beach week activities.”

Dr. Rattay singled out graduation parties as particularly risky given how they often bring the elderly in contact with their younger, possibly asymptomatic infected relatives.

She and Gov. Carney encouraged residents to get tested, with the govenor saying state officials aren’t seeing the interest in testing they expected.

“We encourage you to get testing because the way we’re going to control the spread of the virus now is testing both symptomatic and asymptomatic” people, Gov. Carney said. “We need folks to come out and get tested, particularly if they think they’ve been… at the beach or at a large gathering… [or] a graduation party.”

The leaders stressed the importance of face masks and continued social distancing and said the state intends to increase enforcement of existing COVID-19 and rolling reopening guidelines.

“We also have received a number of complaints about a lot of settings in which social distancing or face covering guidance is not being followed,” Dr. Rattay said.

“The Division of Public Health and the Division of Small Business are working together on an enhanced enforcement strategy,” she said. It’s “really important, that we do all we can to help businesses make sure they have the right guidance in place.”

Rattay identified the Division of Public Health as the contact point for any complaints.

The department intends to carry out both announced and unannounced inspections on businesses and other organizations to identify proper signage, adherence to capacity limits and enforcement of social distancing and face covering measures, Rattay said.

“When we get complaints or concerns, the first thing we always want to do is find out more information and educate,” she said.

“But we also, depending on the situation, may immediately go to do an inspection or follow up with an inspection,” Rattay said. “Closures could even happen as well as referrals to law enforcement if needed.”

In its case update released Tuesday, DPH said it plans to “conduct periodic reviews of its Vital Records data to identify additional COVID-19 deaths, which could lead to ongoing increases in the state’s total number of COVID-19 deaths,” the agency said.

Chiefly as a result of the state identifying deaths not previously reported as coronavirus-related, the death count grew from 435 to 504. New positive cases increased by 27 for a total of 10,847 total cases as of 6 p.m. Monday; 91 people were hospitalized at that time and 15 critically ill.

A total of 6,554 Delawareans had recovered, meaning they had gone at least a week without symptoms.

Individuals who have died from COVID-19 ranged in age from 21 to 104 years old. Of the 504, 267 were females and 237 were males.

A total of 239 individuals were from New Castle County, with 176 from Sussex County and 89 from Kent County.

The two most recent deaths announced Tuesday involved one man and one woman ranging in age from 72 to 85. One was a New Castle resident and one was a Sussex resident. One individual had known underlying health conditions, and one was a resident of a long-term care facility.

Testing locations

Appointments are not needed for the following testing locations. To register in advance and see other testing options, visit Delaware.CurativeInc.com

For information, call 2-1-1. Those who are deaf and hard of hearing can text their ZIP code to 898-211.

Kent County

Today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Lake Forest High School, 5407 Killens Pond Road, Felton, DE 19943

Today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Star Hill Elementary School, 594 Voshells Mill Star Hill Road, Dover, DE 19901

Sussex County

Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Epworth United Methodist Church, 19285 Holland Glade Road, Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971

Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Milford High School, 1019 N Walnut St, Milford, DE 19963

Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Mt. Zion AME Ellendale, 18211 Beach Highway, Ellendale, DE 19941


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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