After new cluster of COVID-19 cases, Delaware beachgoers urged to get tested

Dewey Beach, Delaware

(Dewey Beach, Delaware/Facebook)

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The Delaware Division of Public Health is strongly recommending people who live, work or have recently dined by the beach get tested for COVID-19 after about 100 people tested positive for the virus at Rehoboth Beach Thursday. An additional dozen people tested positive at Dewey Beach Friday.

“We are extremely concerned by yet another cluster of COVID-19 cases in the beach area and the potential for spread to others both at work and in social gatherings,” said DPH Director Karyl Rattay.

This is the second time in less than a week that the state’s department is asking people close to the beach to get tested.

Last week, health officials said three teens participating in senior week festivities could have exposed up to 100 people at the different parties they attended.

The testing push also comes as Gov. John Carney announced the state will not be moving into its next phase of reopening Monday. Instead, Carney said officials are looking to get “a better handle on what’s going on in Delaware and around the country” as COVID-19 cases begin to climb. The delay means visits to senior living facilities and hospitals are still off-limits.

As for containing the new beach cases, Delaware health officials are reaching out to residents who may have come in contact with those who recently tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, community testing events have been scheduled by the beach this week to bolster efforts.

Those living in the beach area with people who are not family, who have attended parties and people who have been to restaurants or bars without face coverings are highly encouraged to get tested.

Health officials know some of those who tested positive had recently been to parties, according to Rattay, who added that social media posts showed people failing to adhere to social distancing guidelines “while they are out and about, including at bars and restaurants.”

“Make no mistake, continuing this behavior is a recipe for disaster,” she said in a statement. “It is a sure way for us to end up with widespread infection that ultimately may not be contained to the beach area.”

State officials are encouraging people to contact DPH’s Health Systems Protection department if they see patrons or staff at businesses not adhering to COVID-19 mitigation guidelines. Officials prefer that businesses comply voluntarily, but they say non-compliance could lead to mandated closures.

Testing will be offered at restaurants

On Monday, restaurant staff can get tested at Big Fish Grill in Rehoboth Beach from noon to 2 p.m. No pre-registration is required. Also on Monday, residents can take a limited number of walk-up spots available for testing from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Starboard Restaurant in Dewey Beach, where pre-registration is already full.

There will be additional restaurant staff testing at Rehoboth Beach on Tuesday, this time at Touch of Italy between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Pre-registration is not required.

The Epworth United Methodist Church at Rehoboth Beach will also host a community testing site Thursday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The department expects to announce additional sites for the following week as well.

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