As Delaware ends state of emergency, health officials warn COVID is not gone

Delaware health officials urged residents not to get ‘lulled’ into believing concerns over COVID-19 are over now that the official state of emergency has been lifted.

Delaware Gov. John Carney speaks at a podium

Delaware Gov. John Carney gives the State of State Address in the Senate Chambers at Legislative Hall in Dover, Del. (Jason Minto/State of Delaware)

After Gov. John Carney lifted Delaware’s state of emergency Tuesday, he and top health officials urged residents not to get too complacent, because the coronavirus is still around — especially the Delta variant, which is on the rise worldwide.

The governor urged residents to get the vaccine, especially younger adults, where the rate of vaccination is much lower than the population as a whole.

Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, echoed Carney’s concern.

“Now that the state of emergency has lifted, and masks and social distancing are not required, we really, really want to honestly beg everyone not to get lulled into believing that COVID is gone,” Rattay said. “We are still seeing cases in Delaware and cases are increasing across the country.”

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Rattay joined Carney at an online town hall meeting Tuesday night to update residents on the state’s numbers and answer their questions.

As of Monday, the state was averaging 29 new cases of coronavirus per day. That’s up from an average of 20 cases at the end of June. The state has gone more than a week without a COVID-related death.

While 71% of all eligible adults have received at least one shot, just 43% of Delawareans aged 18-34 have received at least one dose.

“We have young adults who feel less vulnerable,” Carney said. “We need them to get vaccinated because we could have an outbreak. Many of the cases we’re seeing now are in that unvaccinated group of 18 to 35-year-olds.”

He urged caution for anyone who finds themselves in a crowded bar or restaurant surrounded by lots of young adults not wearing masks, because it’s likely a large percentage of them have not been vaccinated.

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The officials expressed extra concern about the Delta variant of the virus, which has been spreading rapidly in some other states.

“We are also seeing increasing cases of the Delta variant, and we want to remind folks that this variant is more easily transmissible,” Rattay said. The answer to stopping the spread of that variant, and others like it is to get vaccinated, she said.

No specific geographic area of the state has been identified as a virus hotspot, but the health director is worried about the spread of the virus among young adults.

“We still have an awful lot of Delawareans who are not vaccinated, and that’s especially among our young adult population,” she said. “We are very concerned that we’re going to see some outbreaks perhaps soon, or maybe in the fall from the Delta variant.”

Carney said even if the state’s COVID case numbers were to rise, he generally would not call for a return to the restrictions that were first put in place last March.

“We’re not going to be able to go back unless it gets really bad,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to be talking about it or looking at it from a state of emergency requirement to do this. We can’t afford to go backwards in that respect.”

That doesn’t mean residents shouldn’t voluntarily don a face mask when in a crowded situation, Carney said, adding, “I keep my mask with me at all times to be respectful.”

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