State now at 100 COVID-19 deaths

DOVER — Delaware’s official COVID-19 death total hit 100 this week. The Division of Public Health announced eight more deaths Friday, as well as an additional 134 cases.

The state now has seen 3,442 laboratory-confirmed cases.

As of 6 p.m. Thursday, 277 people were hospitalized in Delaware from coronavirus-related issues, with 63 critically ill. DPH said 703 individuals have recovered, meaning they have gone without symptoms for at least a week.

New data unveiled by the state Friday shines further light on the pandemic’s spread in Delaware, chiefly by breaking down information based on race.

So far, 28 percent of cases and 24 percent of deaths have involved blacks, while 26 percent of cases and 61 percent of deaths have involved whites and 15 percent of cases and 4 percent of deaths have involved Hispanics. One percent of Delawareans with the virus have been Asian or Pacific Islander, while the person in 4 percent of cases and 3 percent of deaths belonged to a different race or multiple races.

In 25 percent of cases, race is unknown.

When adjusted for population size, however, that data looks different: For every 10,000 residents, about 60 Hispanics, 46 blacks and 14 whites have the virus.

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Sussex County so far: Broken down by the residence of the patient, there have been 1,486 cases involving New Castle County, 1,394 involving Sussex, 558 involving Kent County and four involving a Delawarean whose home is unknown.

By death, it’s 46 from New Castle, 42 from Sussex and 12 from Kent.

Those numbers may not seem odd, but if one considers that New Castle County has more than twice as many people as Sussex, the scale of the issue becomes evident. Per 10,000 people, there have been 25 cases in New Castle, 32 in Kent and 71 in Sussex.

In other words, while Sussex only has about 24 percent of the state’s population, it has 42 percent of its COVID-19 deaths and 40 percent of cases.

Delawareans are urged not to visit Sussex unless they must to avoid spreading the virus further.

“Right now our attention has to be to support those in Sussex County. For older Delawareans in Sussex and those with other chronic health conditions, we absolutely need you to stay home 24-7. Do not go out for groceries or prescriptions,” Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker said Friday in an update on the outbreak. She urged at-risk people who need those items to call the state’s help line at 211.

“If you go (to Sussex), you are likely to expose yourself and your loved ones to coronavirus,” Secretary Walker said. “But most importantly, if you’re sick with an elevated temperature, a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat or body aches, we need you to stay home … and call your primary care doctor.”

Sussex has a sizable Hispanic population, many of whom work in the poultry industry and live with many relatives in tight quarters, Delaware officials have said. Coupled with the fact some of those residents do not speak English at all or have limited fluency, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Delaware announced new efforts this week to help Sussex Countians, particularly minorities, including partnering with hospitals and poultry plants to offer free testing and provide educational materials and essential items like hand sanitizer and bandanas.

The exact number of people who work in chicken processing plants and have tested positive is not publicly known, but it’s “very high,” according to Gov. John Carney.

Secretary Walker during Friday’s briefing spoke Spanish for those who don’t speak English as a primary language and said: “Do not be afraid to call a doctor if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Do not be afraid if a doctor refers you for testing. And most of all, do not be afraid if you or someone in your family needs medical care because your symptoms become severe.”

“We are all here, the state government and the medical community to help you. We want you and your family to feel safe and we will respect your privacy. Your family’s health is our highest priority,” she said.

As of Friday, the Georgetown ZIP code had the highest cases of COVID-19 in Delaware with 301 to 325 cases, according to state data.

Delaware’s first case was announced March 11, with the first death on March 26.

Twenty-one days later, the death toll hit 50. It then took just a week to double to 100.

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.

Of the Delawareans who have died, 80 were at least 65 years of age and 47 were 80 or older. Four have been younger than 50.

In all, there have been 1,557 cases and 45 deaths involving men, 1,879 cases and 55 deaths involving women and six cases involving a person of unknown gender.

The most recent people to die all had underlying health conditions: a 54-year-old woman from Sussex, a 58-year-old woman from New Castle, a 69-year-old man from New Castle, a 71-year-old man from New Castle, a 79-year-old woman from Sussex, an 87-year-old man from Sussex, a 96-year-old woman from New Castle and a 102-year-old man from New Castle. The 54, 58-, 96- and 102-year-olds were long-term care residents.

There have been 244 confirmed coronavirus cases involving residents of long-term care facilities in the state, with 59 deaths.

That total includes 19 fatalities at Genesis Healthcare’s Milford Center, 11 at Little Sisters of the Poor, five at Brandywine Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, four at New Castle Health and Rehabilitation Center, three at Parkview Nursing and Rehabilitation, three at Atlantic Shores Rehabilitation and Health Center, two at Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill, two at Hillside Center and one at Governor Bacon Health Center.

Additionally, DPH said five facilities in New Castle, three in Sussex and one in Kent County have had one death each, although it is only naming centers with multiple deaths. Governor Bacon appears to be an exception because it is run by the state.

Genesis, which operates the Milford Center, two facilities in Seaford and one in Dover, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on its situation this week.

As of April 16, one week before the latest day for which there is data, the state had seen 2,075 cases and 52 deaths. There were 1,209 cases and 23 deaths one week prior to that, with 393 and 12 as of April 2.

The four largest day-over-day increases in cases have come in the past week, and data presented by state officials Friday estimates there will be about 6,400 cases by the end of the month.

There have been 13,937 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.

The agency this week started releasing data for the prior day between noon and 2 p.m. rather than sending out the information for the day every evening. DPH said the change enables the state to provide additional information and lightens the burden on its staff and the media.

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, the division did not release additional details about the cases Friday, 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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