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Coronavirus update: Plasma treatments start as Delaware hits 92 deaths

Nurses with ChristianaCare test people for the coronavirus in downtown Wilmington on March 13, 2020. (Butch Comegys for WHYY)

Nurses with ChristianaCare test people for the coronavirus in downtown Wilmington on March 13, 2020. (Butch Comegys for WHYY)

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Delaware now has 3,308 cases of the coronavirus, an increase of 108 from yesterday. The state added three more deaths for a total of 92. The number of patients being treated at Delaware hospitals now stands at 290, up 21 from Wednesday.

The three new deaths were all residents of long-term care facilities who had underlying health conditions. The two men and a woman ranged in age from 74 to 85. Long-term care residents make up nearly 62% of all coronavirus related deaths in Delaware even though they account for less than 8% of total cases in the state.

Plasma treatment from recovered patients underway

Delaware’s ChristianaCare has treated its first patient using plasma donated by someone who recovered from the coronavirus. The hospital is one of 1,600 taking part in the Food and Drug Administration’s National Access Program for Convalescent Plasma.

“We are working closely with the Blood Bank of Delmarva in the collection of blood plasma so it is available in our hospitals and are looking to bring new patients into the program if they are appropriate for the treatment,” Infection Disease Specialist Alfred Bacon said. “A key to the success of this program is recovered patients willing to donate their plasma.”

Before being injected, the blood is tested for safety. It then undergoes a procedure to separate the blood cells so all that is left is the plasma which contains antibodies that can help combat the virus. One plasma donation can be used to help up to four COVID-19 patients.

Initial tests have shown the treatment can benefit some patients, but it’s not clear how widespread that benefit will be or if it could have negative side effects.

Delaware prisons expand coronavirus procedures

Forty-one people held in Delaware prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 21 correctional officers have the virus. As of Wednesday, the Dept. of Correction has halted all work release programs for lower level offenders who are allowed to leave the prison for work during the day.

DOC officials are monitoring 1,000 people held at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna and Sussex Community Corrections Center in Georgetown where the cases have been diagnosed. They’ve distributed 360 face masks in housing units at Vaughn, bringing the total number of masks handed out behind bars to nearly 900.

“Careful monitoring, early detection and testing are helping us to effectively manage the threat of COVID-19 in our facilities, along with isolation and treatment,” said DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis. “DOC officers, supervisors and healthcare professionals on the front lines are helping us to effectively contain this virus.”

DOC has expanded prevention and screening procedures in an effort to put a lid on the spread. That includes twice-a-day temperature checks for those held in buildings at Vaughn and SCCC where outbreaks have occurred. They’ve also increased the use of intensive cleaning of the buildings using a disinfecting machine with an airborne mist to sterilize entire rooms.

DOC officials say three men have fully recovered from COVID-19. One inmate, who had an underlying respiratory condition died of the virus last week.

Delaware sports teams raising money for healthcare workers

Delaware’s minor league sports teams are joining forces to raise money for first responders and healthcare workers leading the fight against the coronavirus. The Wilmington Blue Rocks minor league baseball team and the Delaware Blue Coats G-League basketball team are selling shirts with the teams’ logos and the phrase “Delaware Together, United in Blue.”

Proceeds from the sales will be donated to two of the state’s largest health systems, ChristianaCare and Nemours Children’s Health System.

“It’s in these challenging times that the spirit of Delaware really shines,” said Blue Rocks managing partner Dave Heller. “There’s an unsinkable spirit and determination amongst us to help each other get through even the toughest times.”

“We are thrilled to unite with the Blue Rocks and use our platforms to offer a way for our fans to contribute to the front lines of Delaware’s health care system, should they have the flexibility to do so,” said said Blue Coats President Larry Meli.

The shirts will be available for order from April 22-May 3. They will be shipped out starting 10 to 14 days after the May 3 deadline.

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