State’s coronavirus count hits 165, remains at two deaths

DOVER — Friday saw the state’s official coronavirus count rise to 165, an increase of 22 cases from a day before and 126 from a week before.

The state’s first two coronavirus-related deaths were reported Thursday, 15 days after the first case was announced.

The Division of Public Health said the 165 cases involve individuals ranging from 1 to 90. Twenty people are currently hospitalized, with nine critically ill.

Of the affected Delawareans, 106 are from New Castle County, 21 are from Kent County and 38 are from Sussex County.

The count includes individuals who are currently ill, those who have recovered (gone seven days without symptoms) and the two who died.
Among the people hospitalized are several residents of the Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence in Newark, Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker said Friday.

The home is the site of the first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility in the state. Delaware announced Thursday night an 86-year-old living there had died, while six other residents had tested positive for the virus.

The first individual to die was a 66-year-old man from Sussex County.

DPH said it cannot release much information about the cases due to privacy laws. A slightly more detailed breakdown is available at coronavirus.delaware.gov, including by ZIP code.

The source of exposure for many of the cases in Delaware is unknown, indicating community spread of the virus is occurring here. According to Division of Public Health Director Karyl Rattay, some people have gone to the doctor to get tested and then stopped at other public places.

“If you are ill, ill enough to be tested, then you need to be in isolation, which is at least seven days from the time your symptoms began,” she said Thursday. “You should not be leaving your home.”

If necessary, DPH can enforce a quarantine through court order. Anyone who knows of an individual who has tested positive for the virus but is not isolating should contact the agency.

Delaware has been in a state of emergency since March 12, and Gov. John Carney has since closed schools and non-essential businesses and instructed Delawareans to avoid contact with others. The beaches were closed last weekend after crowds of people gathered there despite social distancing guidelines.

Health experts say the elderly and those with serious underlying health conditions are most at risk.

“I was out at one of the big box stores yesterday and I saw so many people who were clearly in that high-risk category,” Gov. Carney said in a livestream with Dr. Walker Friday. “They were out, they were too close to one another.”

The governor described the outbreak in a nursing home as one of his “worst fears” and urged people to take the virus seriously. Hard as it may be, individuals should avoid contact with elderly relatives, he said, citing his mother as an example of someone who hasn’t been able to see loved ones lately. He encouraged listeners to make special efforts to call older parents or grandparents.

The state is working with the Jeanne Jugan Residence to contain the virus and keep patients and staff safe, Dr. Walker said.

The two officials took questions from the public during the livestream, offering answers to some commonly asked questions about COVID-19 and its impact on the state.

Delaware is working hard to conserve vital hospital equipment and supplies as well as testing kits, they said, referencing the potential for a surge of patients flooding state hospitals. A major reason the free testing sites set up at seven health facilities around the site only take patients with doctor referrals is to conserve tests.

“Right now, Delaware does believe we’re in a good place to have enough tests for the next couple of weeks. Maybe less if we go through them more quickly,” Dr. Walker said.

The Division of Professional Regulation sent a letter to health care providers this week instructing them to stop prescribing hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for COVID-19. There are no studies on the drugs’ impact on the virus, the letter says, and overprescribing has caused statewide shortages.

Dr. Walker reiterated that on Friday, urging providers to save the medications for people who most need them.

In response to a question about why he has not closed child care centers, Gov. Carney said they are essential, supporting workers who have vital jobs.

“Without child care for our front line health care workers … we’re not going to be able to provide the services that are needed,” he explained.

Rep. John Kowalko, whose wife runs a children’s center in Newark, has repeatedly blasted the governor for not closing the centers over the past two weeks.

Answering another commonly heard refrain, the governor noted liquor stores are classified as essential to prevent alcoholics from going into withdrawal and flooding urgent care and emergency rooms.

Statewide testing at standing health facility sites began Monday 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.

Individuals awaiting test results should wait to hear back from their medical provider.

People who are sick, especially with shortness of breath or a fever and coughing, should stay home and contact their primary care provider instead of first heading to the emergency room or an urgent care center. A person experiencing a medical emergency such as significant trouble breathing should call 911.

More than 85,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus in the United States, with more than 1,200 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Delawareans with general questions about COVID-19 or their exposure risk can 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

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.