Delaware's positive COVID-19 cases more than tripled in a week, and as hundreds of test results filter in, officials say, the number of positive cases will mount.
“Many Delawareans were tested over the past week, and these results indicate a reflection of increased testing,” said Division of Public Health Director Karyl Rattay.
A third Sussex County resident tested positive March 18 for COVID-19, and at least one person with the illness in Kent County is now in critical care. The state total has now reached 30, with 23 positive cases in New Castle County, four in Kent County and three in Sussex County.
Of these cases, more than half are males, and ages range from 14 to 80. On March 18, Rattay said, three individuals are currently hospitalized – one in critical condition in Kent County, said Rattay. A second individual is hospitalized in Kent County and another is in New Castle County.
Milford Superintendent Kevin Dickerson said a parent who has children in Benjamin Banneker Elementary and Avenue Preschool tested positive for COVID-19. He said the parent is isolated at home.
With the exception of those hospitalized, Rattay said, 23 people were self-isolated at home March 18, and they were doing fine.
Rattay said testing has expanded with more commercial labs offering services for a total of 15 labs now processing results. Rattay said there is a 24-hour turnaround at the DPH lab in Smyrna and a 3-4 day time frame for commercial labs, which is expected to decrease.
Rattay said hundreds of residents participated in recent drive-thru testing provided by ChristianaCare and Beebe Healthcare, and more test sites will be offered in the coming days.
Based on ChristianaCare's drive-thru, in which 536 tests were done, Rattay said the rate of positive cases is about 2 percent. “That tells us it’s a low rate now,” she said.
Social distancing remains the best way to avoid the virus, officials say.
Public health officials continue to tell citizens to stay 6 feet away from others, and anyone who is sick should stay home.
“In [the past] seven days our way of life has changed dramatically from the way we do our jobs to the amount of time we spend in our homes secluded from others,” said Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker.
Walker said there are still unknowns about how the virus affects young people and children, but the disease is 10 times more deadly than the seasonal flu.
“There's a lot to be learned right now,” she said. “It's unclear about reinfection, and what happens with infants,” she said.
She said health officials are monitoring those who have tested positive, and they are taking steps to protect public health.
“If you are sick with fever, or cough, or shortness of breath, do not leave your house,” she said. “Do not go out and expose yourself to others.”
While social distancing is stressed, Rattay said, healthy people should still remain active.
“Going for a walk at a time like this is a really positive thing to do for our mental and physical health,” she said.
Rattay also recommends those with seasonal allergies to take precautions so there is no confusion between allergy symptoms and those associated with COVID-19.
Anyone with symptoms should call their healthcare provider for guidance and healthcare recommendations. Delawareans with questions about COVID-19 or their exposure risk can call the Division of Public Health’s Coronavirus Call Center at 1-866-408-1899, or 711 for individuals who are hearing impaired. The call center operates 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
For more information, email DPHCall@delaware.gov or go to de.gov/coronavirus.
Gov. John Carney said his administration has been talking with hospital officials about room capacity and whether there is a need for medical equipment.
“At some point we may need surge capacity,” Carney said. Officials have discussed setting up temporary units outside a main hospital in case more capacity is needed, he said.
As officials try to anticipate how many COVID-19 patients could need hospital care, Carney said some hospitals are canceling unnecessary surgical procedures in order to free up space.
“Then we need to figure what kind of space we can make available outside the hospitals,” he said.
At Beebe Healthcare, Christina Deidesheimer, director of marketing communications, could not say at what point the hospital would be overwhelmed with patients. “That's impossible to answer because it depends on the acuity of the cases coming in,” she said.
Looking ahead, Carney said discussions are ongoing over hospital capacity and the amount of medical equipment needed to fight COVID-19.
“We're looking into the availability of ventilators, the availability of extra beds, the availability of extra equipment and the availability of testing,” he said.