Two Kent County patients under investigation for coronavirus

STANTON — Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) Director Dr. Karyl Rattay announced at a press conference today that DPH has two Patients Under Investigation (PUIs) for coronavirus disease in Kent County, who had traveled to a country under a travel alert. Three previous PUIs were tested and all came back negative.

As Delaware continues to prepare for community spread of the virus, Dr. Rattay also announced that the Division of Public Health Lab in Smyrna now has the capability to test for coronavirus disease known as COVID-19. The tests for the two patients in Kent County will be the first run at the lab. To date, no one in Delaware has tested positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Rattay said the DPH Lab will have the ability to turn around tests in approximately a day for COVID-19 and provide either a presumptive positive or negative result. The CDC will provide confirmatory testing.

“Despite the increased number of cases of COVID-19 in the United States, the immediate health risk to Delawareans and most Americans remains low,” Dr. Rattay said at the press conference at ChristianaCare’s John H. Ammon Medical Educational Center at Christiana Hospital.

“We are grateful now to have the ability to test for the virus at our lab and will announce the results of the two patients in Kent County as soon as we can. Going forward, we will continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and work with our health care partners to determine when it is appropriate to test patients for coronavirus disease.”

Dr. Rattay also announced that the Division of Public Health will open a call center to field inquiries from the public by mid-week. The phone number will be announced when the call center is ready. DPH is also issuing updated guidance for monitoring returning travelers as new countries have been added to the list of countries with coronavirus disease-related travel alerts.

Any travelers returning from a country with a Level 2 or higher Travel Alert in the last 14 days and who:

• Have fever, cough and/or shortness of breath, should contact DPH at 1-888-295-5156 to discuss next steps. Those who need to call 9-1-1 for a medical emergency should advise dispatchers of your recent travel and symptoms;

• Do not have fever, cough and/or shortness of breath (asymptomatic travelers), should contact DPH at 1-888-295-5156 for instructions on self-monitoring.

Asymptomatic returning travelers are asked to stay home (no work, school, attending public gatherings) during this 14-day period. If a returning traveler develops symptoms during this time, and there is no medical emergency, they should contact DPH instead of calling 9-1-1 or visiting a walk-in or urgent care facility.

“Today, there are important things that Delawareans can do to stay healthy, to reduce the burden on the health care system, and to prepare if community transmission of coronavirus disease does happen in our state,” said Department of Health of Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a practicing family physician.

In addition to guidance for individuals, she also encouraged Delaware employers to review their plans to operate with adaptations such as telework and flexible sick leave policies, as well as how to respond if an employee does get sick.

“Most importantly, in the event of an outbreak locally, we will need employers to stress to employees that they not to come work when they are sick,” Secretary Walker said.

As of today, there are more than 89,000 cases of coronavirus disease worldwide, including more than 3,000 deaths. There are 43 cases and two deaths to date in the United States. Consistent with the CDC’s guidance, Dr. Rattay said community spread is likely to increase in the United States. “Our efforts, where before they were focused on containment of the disease, are now focused on mitigating the impact of it when it does occur.”