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Delaware prepares for coronavirus

No cases reported in state as numbers increase worldwide
February 28, 2020

Delaware’s state agencies are getting ready for the worst, as the number of coronavirus cases reported worldwide and in the U.S. continue to rise.

“As we continue to prepare for the likelihood of community spread in the U.S., we have begun stepping up our planning and preparedness efforts around mitigation strategies recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the coming days and weeks, we will be having additional conversations with healthcare providers, schools, businesses, and other state partners and stakeholders about what guidance to consider in the event of an outbreak locally,” said Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay.

No one in Delaware has yet tested positive for coronavirus, but there have been about 60 reported cases in the U.S. No deaths have been reported in the U.S., and no community has reported an outbreak. Worldwide, more than 80,000 cases have been reported, including 2,700 deaths.

In Delaware, public health officials have created a system to test people who have traveled to China and show symptoms of coronavirus. A system is also in place to monitor people returning from mainland China even if they are not yet showing symptoms, said Jen Brestel, DPH spokeswoman.

Coronavirus symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear anytime from two to 14 days after exposure. Of those who have been diagnosed with the virus, Brestel said, some have little to no symptoms – similar to the common cold – while others become severely ill. According to officials, young people who have contracted the virus have fared well; elderly and those with compromised immune systems have been hardest hit.

Health officials expect more cases will be confirmed in the upcoming days and weeks, and they ask that everyone take measures to help prevent the spread of the virus.

“The Division of Public Health is well-prepared to lead the response regarding coronavirus disease, and this is a time to enhance our preparedness efforts,” said Gov. John Carney. “DPH has infectious disease outbreak plans in place that our public health experts regularly review and practice. Delaware’s plans are being used now to guide the state’s current public health activities, and those plans are flexible, allowing us to adapt to changing situations.”

CDC is recommending schools and both public and private employers review their policies for infection prevention and control in the event there is a local outbreak.

Possibilities for employers include allowing employees to telework, or offering flexible sick leave, Brestel said.

In an effort to coordinate with the CDC, state agencies and local facilities, she said, DPH has activated its state health operations center. DPH and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security are working with hospitals, healthcare systems, EMS and first responder agency partners so that they have the latest information on the virus, Brestel said.

Regular meetings are also being held with Delaware Emergency Management Agency, DSHS and other healthcare operations to make sure protective equipment has been stocked, and provide support where needed, she said. A sales clerk at Cape Pharmacy in Lewes said the store has no face masks, and the wholesaler that provides face masks is also out of stock.

There is no vaccine yet against the virus, but health officials encourage residents to get a flu shot, since more than 5,000 flu cases have been confirmed this season in Delaware along with 11 deaths.

Everyone can take measures to help prevent the spread of germs, which includes covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when sick, washing hands frequently, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces, Brestel said.

For more information and updates related to the virus, visit the DPH website at https://dhss.delaware.gov/dph, where materials can be found in English, simplified Chinese/Mandarin, Spanish, and Haitian-Creole. In addition to updates on the global coronavirus disease outbreak, the website also contains numbers of returning travelers that DPH is currently monitoring, which are updated twice each week on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The most accurate and timely information regarding this outbreak is available through the Division of Public Health, as well as the CDC’s website and social media channels.