Two Kent County residents test negative for coronavirus

STANTON — As the state outlined an aggressive approach to mitigating any impact a coronavirus outbreak may have in Delaware, officials said two Kent County residents who were tested after recently visiting a country under a travel alert were negative for the virus.

Those residents were the first to be examined at the Public Health Lab in Smyrna, authorities said. Samples also will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Three other Delawareans previously tested negative for the virus.

Tests for COVID-19 can be completed in about a day to determine negative or positive findings, and CDC can confirm the results from the materials it receives.

There have been no positive tests in the First State so far. On Monday, the Associated Press reported that deaths from coronavirus in the United States had risen to six.

“The immediate risk for the average Delawarean and average American remains low,” Delaware Division of Public Health Dr. Karyl Rattay said during a 20-minute news conference followed by question and answer sessions with officials held at Christiana Hospital Monday.

State health officials continue to take an aggressive approach to the community spread, Dr. Rattay said, and the focus is on mitigating the impact of the virus upon arrival.

Officials implored businesses and schools to review their health safety plans, allowing flexibility for employees and students who may need time away to monitor potential symptoms.

“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,” said Department of Health of Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a practicing family physician.

Delaware is also inundated with an atypically high number of flu cases (more than 5,500 lab confirmed, 11 deaths) this season.

The DPH is establishing a corona virus call center scheduled to be operational by mid-week, once staff training is completed. Contact information will be announced to the public.

There’s no indication that wearing masks is an effective prevention measure to repulsing the virus, and Dr. Rattay said they’re more important to stay in stock for medical provider usage.

The most basic ways to lessen risk remain – washing hands with soap often, keeping surfaces clean, stay home when sick, covering up sneezes and coughs, among preventive actions.

DPH provides guidance

A news release said 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.

Those travelers who 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.

COVID-19-related information and updates are available online at de.gov/coronavirus.

The AP reported that a shift in the crisis appeared to be taking shape, as hundreds of patients were released from hospitals at the epicenter of the outbreak in China and the World Health Organization reported that nine times more cases were reported outside the country than inside it over the past 24 hours.

The global death toll pushed past 3,000, and the number of people infected topped 89,000, with fast-expanding outbreaks in South Korea, Italy and Iran, the AP said.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union announced a letter from more than 450 public health, human rights legal experts describing widespread coronavirus transmission as “inevitable” in the United States and stressed that “a successful response to the epidemic must protect the health and human rights of everyone in the country.”

Vice President Mike Pence and other government officials were the intended recipients.