Carney takes issues with Delaware being put on states’ quarantine lists

WILMINGTON – While ramped-up testing is painting a clearer picture of COVID-19 spread, Gov. John Carney and state officials say continued diligence from Delawareans is needed before the state can consider moving into Phase 3.

One day after he formally extended his COVID-19 state of emergency for another 30 days, Gov. Carney, during his weekly press conference Tuesday, addressed the response to the recent surge in positive tests in Delaware’s beach communities.

Gov. Carney also responded to Delaware’s placement on quarantine lists by governors of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Delaware’s positive testing percentage stood at 5.3%, far below other states that have experienced huge positive test upticks, such as Arizona (25.3 percent), Florida (18.7), South Carolina (16.6), Mississippi (15.0), Texas (13.8).

“We’re not in the same league with respect to these other folks with respect to that travel quarantine,” Gov. Carney said.

“I don’t want to be in that category. My message is I don’t believe that we should be in that category as the other states. I don’t think we should be singled out.”

Gov. Carney said he planned to speak with the governors, but said he had no plans to impose another travel quarantine into Delaware like the one in March.

“If you remember we had a quarantine that didn’t identify any state specifically. It just said a quarantine for other people coming from other states. It was back in March and after the really uncontrolled situation on St. Patrick’s Day on the beaches in southern Delaware and also because Pennsylvania, they had different regulations around liquor, the availability of liquor and they had a different system in Pennsylvania,” Gov. Carney said.

“We thought about it when we saw this outbreak in Sussex County at the beaches because so many of those people coming to the beaches, not so much New Jersey but Pennsylvania and the D.C. area. But decided it wasn’t as targeted enough as we wanted.

“Instead we stayed in Phase 2 and tried to manage Phase 2 with better management and testing. We really leaned into the testing part … and decided to do that in a targeted way with the beaches and bars and restaurants and came up with a solution that is targeted at the problem opposed to a blanket quarantine. Will we do that in the future? I hope we don’t have to address issues. I hope this is the end of the uptick in the beach communities. We are going to keep our eye on it through the summer, obviously.”

Throughout the pandemic, southern Delaware has experienced noticeable surges, first within the workers at poultry plants, and more recently a sharp increase in the number of positive cases with the 18-34 age demographic. Officials attributed that to lack of compliance – social distance, masks and hand hygiene – predominantly in Sussex County’s beach communities.

That has changed for the better, through response from businesses and aggressive testing coordinated through state, Delaware Emergency Management Agency, hospitals and others.

“I am really proud of how everyone came together in the beach area,” said Division of Public Health Direc-tor Dr. Karyl Rattay.

In particular, of the 4,166 tests in the Rehoboth Beach ZIP code, 264 were positive at 6.34%.

“Many were asymptomatic and that’s the opportunity to use those tools of quarantine and more investigation, isolation to really keep those who might be spreading the virus to others,” said Dr. Rattay, who offered kudos to Bethany Blues in Lewes, Iron Hill Brewery in Rehoboth and Harpoon Hannah’s in Fenwick Island for cooperation and compliance.

“We’ve ramped up testing significantly across Delaware,” said Gov. Carney. “It helps us to know where the spread is occurring and to get our focus on different areas of the state in terms of enforcement, in terms of focus on the extra testing as we have been doing in the beach communities.”

The state received 700 complaints of non-compliance, and there were more than 220 on-site inspections.

There was improvement in many places, Dr. Rattay said.

“There are some but not many that are very resistant to making the changes that they need to. So the next step for these will include fines and possibly even shutdowns for those businesses who are noncompliant,” Dr. Rattay said.

However, in one enforcement sweep, 38 establishments were visited with “absolutely no violations,” Dr. Rattay said. “We know that this is not easy for restaurants and bars to really in many ways control the behaviors of their customers in ways that they have never ever conceived before.”

“Over last 14 days we have had a much different attendance at testing sites, which is good. Does that increase our cases a little bit? Absolutely,” said DEMA Director A.J. Schall.

At 58 sites, 52,000-plus tests were administered. This does not include hospital sites or commercial labs. Mr. Schall said.

A resource on coronavirus in Delaware is the My Healthy Community website: www.de.gov/healthycommunity, Dr. Rattay said.

Looking ahead, Gov. Carney said, “In the fall I am moving into Phase 3, economically,” but added he is hoping for a decrease in the number of positive cases “so that we can have some assurance as we make really hard decisions coming up over the next weeks, in terms of opening our schools.”

Daily update

Division of Public Health reported two new deaths due to COVID-19 and 121 additional positive cases, as of 6 p.m. Monday.

In addition, 56 individuals remain hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Delaware. Fifteen patients are critically ill.

While the total cumulative number of positive cases has increased by 121 between Monday and Tuesday, 79 new positive cases were reported to DPH on Monday. The remaining 42 positive cases are from test results reported on prior days but processed into the DPH surveillance system on Monday.

The two most recent deaths involved individuals in their 80s. One was male, one was female, and both were residents of New Castle County. Both also had underlying health conditions.

Thus far, 514 Delawareans have passed away due to complications from COVID-19. Individuals who have died ranged in age from 21 to 104 years old. Of those who have died, 272 were females and 242 were males. A total of 247 individuals were from New Castle County, 92 were from Kent County, and 175 were from Sussex County.

New Castle has had the most positive cases, 5,555, followed by Sussex County (4,977) and Kent County (1.784).