More young people have tested COVID-19 positive in connection with a recent senior beach week in Dewey Beach, and additional positives are expected, officials say.
“Three individuals in another rental unit now have tested positive, and there's another unrelated case who also attended beach week activities,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, during a June 23 press conference. “We expect that to go up as more testing is done.”
On June 20, DPH announced at least three of more than a dozen teens staying in a rental unit in Dewey Beach had tested positive for COVID-19. Rattay said the number has increased to four in that unit, in addition to the four new additional cases. Teens attended several parties in Rehoboth Beach, Rattay said, possibly exposing as many as 100 people. DPH would not release the street where the teens rented or where the parties were held, citing health privacy protection.
“We are not able to provide the street,” said DPH spokeswoman Jen Brestel. “There are probably a lot of teens down there, but it would be considered a potential identifier, and we have an obligation to protect personal health information.”
Senior week is typically held in early to mid-June after high school graduations.
Andrea Wojcik, DPH spokeswoman, said officials have communicated with those who tested positive and are reaching out to their contacts. Anyone who participated in senior week activities, especially in Dewey Beach or Rehoboth Beach, and who lived or stayed with a group or attended a large gathering, should consider themselves at risk for the virus, she said. “They should self-monitor for symptoms and consider getting tested,” Wojcik said.
About two months ago, there was a shift in the average age of new positive cases from mid-50s to mid-30s, which has to do with more young people getting out and about, said Gov. John Carney, during his June 23 press conference.
“It's indicative of behavior,” he said. “Young people eager to get back outside and back to the beaches, and inside to restaurants and bars that might be connected to them, or beach houses and parties.”
While social distancing and wearing face coverings are important to prevent the spread of COVID-19, safety measures are often forgotten in large, social groups, he said.
“If you're down at a party or at a house, that's probably not something you're paying a lot of attention to,” he said.
The Starboard, Woody’s adjust operations for safety; HammerHeads closes
In a June 24 Facebook post, The Starboard stated some employees are awaiting COVID-19 test results and will remain out of work until they are cleared to return.
“If anyone feels ill, they immediately inform management and are sent home so they can get tested,” the post reads. “They are not allowed back to work until either a negative test or a doctor's approval following a positive test.”
The restaurant is sprayed nightly with a hospital-grade, FDA-approved germ-killing solution, the post stated, and employees are screened when they arrive to work each shift with temperature checks and a series of questions.
“Sharing an employee's test results is not allowed,” the post continued. “We continue to work to keep our venues safe for patrons to enjoy by taking actions and following protocols issued by our state public health department.”
Jimmy O’Conor, owner of Woody’s Dewey Beach, also announced June 24 that the restaurant would transition to carry-out only from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day until he feels it’s safe for staff and customers to be in the restaurant.
“It's not a decision I take lightly, and the safety and well-being of my staff and customers outweighs all other decisions,” O’Conor stated.
After the Cape Gazette’s June 26 print deadline, HammerHeads announced on Facebook June 25 that both locations have been closed voluntarily while operators assess the COVID-19 outbreak in the beach area.
“Conditions are rapidly changing and the uncertainty of our surroundings is increasing every minute,” the post reads. “Out of caution, we are closing to ensure the health and safety of our staff, guests and local community.”
The HammerHeads statement said reopening plans would be announced, and encouraged staff and customers to be tested frequently.
Hospitalizations increased from a two-month low of 75 June 19 to 91 on June 22, before dropping to 85 a day later. The number of critically ill is 18, according to the Division of Public Health's latest statistics.
Hospitalizations and the number of critical care patients have been key metrics used by Delaware officials to gauge the state's reopening. Hospitalizations hit 100 June 11 and have remained below 100 since then. At their peak, Delaware hospitalizations were 337 April 27.