Sussex leading state in rate of coronavirus infection

Georgetown area a hotspot of positive cases in county
April 15, 2020

I’ve looked at a lot of statistics and graphs related to the coronavirus in the last two days and watched Gov. John Carney’s press briefing Tuesday afternoon. Here are my takeaways:

• Delaware’s number of positive cases continues to climb and in terms of infection rate, Sussex County has the dubious distinction of leading the pack. That means that based on numbers current on Tuesday, Sussex County has the highest percentage of positive test results relative to total population. Sussex has about 234,000 residents and as of Tuesday, 639 people have tested positive. That’s an infection rate of .27 percent.

New Castle County, the state’s most densely populated county, has about 559,000 residents. As of Tuesday, the state reported New Castle County with 947 people who have tested positive. That’s an infection rate of .17 percent. Counterintuitive. What’s that all about?

Overall in Delaware, with an estimated population of about 980,000, the state is reporting 1,926 people who have tested positive so far. That’s a statewide infection rate of .19 percent. Delaware is reportedly the sixth-most densely populated state in the country.

• The greatest concentration of cases in Sussex is around the middle part of the county, around Georgetown, the county seat. (See map, the most recent provided by the state, at

• Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of Delaware’s Division of Public Health, said COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus, is widespread throughout the Delaware community. “It’s a widespread infection. It’s best to assume that it’s in the places where we are going. Only go out if you have to.”  

• She said COVID-19 is a particularly challenging virus. “There is more asymptomatic spread than with a lot of viruses.” That means there are a lot of people infected with the coronavirus who aren’t experiencing symptoms. And that means a lot of people with the virus can be going out and either getting exposed or exposing others without thinking they may be doing so.

• Rattay said long-term care facilities, where there have been a lot of cases and a majority of the deaths in Delaware related to the virus – 26 of the 43 deaths statewide as of Tuesday – are of particular concern. “We need to step up in long-term care facilities [nursing homes] due to this being such a challenging virus,” said Rattay. Rep. Pete Schawrtzkopf, speaker of Delaware’s House of Representatives, said that in a conference call Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Carney expressed particular concern about Sussex County. Schwartzkopf said another executive order tightening guidelines for nursing homes is likely.

• Carney said the state has seven testing sites but so far has only been testing symptomatic people. “We’re not testing asymptomatic people. That’s why we need a lot more testing capacity than we have. If we could test a lot more people, we could get a better feel for the spread.” The state’s testing statistics are based on results reported by public and commercial testing sites. Related hospitalizations and deaths are reported to the Division of Public Health by hospitals and other public medical agencies.

• Carney and Rattay emphasized that testing for cases, isolating cases, and tracking those cases will be key to controlling the virus and guiding decisions on easing restrictions to help the state’s stricken economy. “The risk for rebound is high,” said Carney. “We’re going to be guided by science. It’s heartbreaking to hear the anguish of the restaurateurs I talk to and so many others. That’s the effect of the shutdown. We don’t plan to start easing restrictions a day too early, or a day too late. We have to stay the course. We’re in this together.”

• The age group being most affected by the virus is the 18-49 category. Latest statewide numbers show 997 infected people in that age group out of the state total of 1,926. (See current state numbers in the screenshot of the state’s dashboard.) “Those are the people working every day,” said Schwartzkopf. “They’re the ones most exposed.” The next-highest group is the 49-64 age group with 537 cases, again, the working people.

Bottom line: Delaware’s coronavirus numbers continue to climb. “We have to see healthy community factors on the ground before we can start thinking about reopening,” said Carney. “We can’t have a healthy economy without a healthy community.”    



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