Delaware prepares for second wave as COVID cases spike
At the beginning of September, an average of 86.7 people per day in Delaware were being diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to a rolling seven-day average.
As the month closes, that number has risen to nearly 110 cases per day, and the percentage of people testing positive – 7.2% as of Monday – is the highest it has been since July.
This uptick comes as the state's Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee released a report Thursday on steps Delaware needs to take to prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19 as well as lessons learned from the past six months.
The day before, Gov. John Carney said the recent trend in positive cases is made up largely of young people. The governor said off-campus gatherings, such as parties that flout gathering limits in places like Newark, have been a problem. So have some bars and restaurants.
Carney said he'd like to see the average case count get below 90 and positive numbers be at 5% or lower. The recent uptick has landed Delaware back on quarantine lists in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere.
But as the case counts jump, the state's hospital numbers remain relatively flat since young people who test positive remain less likely to need hospital stays.
Delaware, Carney said, did not come close to reaching hospital capacity limits during the throes of the pandemic in late April and May, and those limits aren't close to being reached now.
Through Tuesday, there were 72 people hospitalized due to complications from the coronavirus. Fifteen of those people were listed in critical condition.
The state last week crossed the 20,000 case mark, and 635 people have died.
Around 300 positive tests have been reported by the University of Delaware since Aug. 31. The university is doing surveillance testing, meaning samples of people are being tested on whether or not they've had a known exposure to the virus. UD reported 36 positive cases among students Tuesday.
Newark was among three areas of concern pointed out Tuesday by Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay along with Wilmington (19805 and 19802 zip codes) and New Castle (specifically the 19720 zip code).
The Newark City Council voted 4-3 this week to extend the limits on indoor (12) and outdoor (20) gatherings until the percentage of tests returning positive results drops.
In Dover, a large party of 300 to 500 people that turned deadly after a shooting had Carney thinking about next steps. That party included many Delaware State University students.
"It makes me think about what we need to do on the enforcement side," Carney said.
The state is also monitoring outbreaks at multiple long-term care facilities. At Wilmington's Kentmere Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, 36 residents and 25 staff members have tested positive. At Cadia Healthcare Silverside in Talleyville, 19 residents and 14 staff members have tested positive. And at Country Rest Home in Greenwood, 18 residents and 14 staff members have tested positive.
Carney and Rattay urged Delawareans to get flu shots and launched a campaign called Fight Flu Delaware.
The committee, which consisted of those from the public and private sector, made recommendations like increased testing for Black and Latino communities, ensuring health care providers and hospitals have enough personal protective equipment, deploying short-term financial support programs for disproportionately affected businesses and extending funding for emergency sheltering (such as hotels).
The report also noted how nursing homes, poultry plants and restaurants were affected by the pandemic.
According to the report, an unnamed poultry plant experienced a positive rate of 30% at one point during the pandemic. Some of the poultry plants, the committee found, had difficulty implementing social distancing and COVID-19 guidelines.
For restaurants, 94% reported that weekly sales had declined 70 percent or more as a result of COVID-19.
Nearly 60% of Delaware's COVID-19 deaths were residents of long-term care facilities. These nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the report said, had applied testing protocols unevenly, limited PPE available, staff members working at multiple facilities and difficulty "adjusting to technical guidance as understanding of the virus evolved, specifically regarding resident separation."
A Delaware Online/News Journal investigation found that about 30% of these facilities failed to follow protocols to curb the spread of the virus.
Contact Jeff Neiburg at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.