Coronavirus update: Delaware hospitalization rate below projections

Delaware National Guard Sergeant Whitlock readies himself to deliver packaged food from a medium tactical vehicle on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, at Frederick Lodge Manufactured Home Community in Townsend, Del. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

Delaware National Guard Sergeant Whitlock readies himself to deliver packaged food from a medium tactical vehicle on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, at Frederick Lodge Manufactured Home Community in Townsend, Del. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

Updated 6:13 p.m.

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As of Tuesday night, Delaware has 1,926 cases of coronavirus, an increase of 165 over yesterday. Two more patients have died from the virus for a total of 43 deaths. The latest deaths include an 83-year-old woman from Sussex County who was living at a long term care facility and a 70-year-old woman from Kent County. Both women had underlying health conditions.

There are 217 COVID-19 patients in Delaware hospitals, 45 of those are in the ICU. The number of ICU patients has dropped by six since yesterday.

Hospitalization rate below state projections

Delaware health officials have been most closely monitoring the state’s coronavirus hospitalization rate. That is, what rate of COVID-19 patients have been treated in the hospital. Gov. John Carney said the state was working off the worst-case scenario projections that 20% of virus patients would require hospitalization.

But the actual numbers have been well below that projection. Carney says the state’s hospitalization rate has been closer to 10%.

“The good news is we’re seeing the number of hospitalizations which is the number we track really carefully, has been consistently under our kind of conservative high estimate,” Carney said in a Tuesday afternoon news conference. The hospitalization rate on Tuesday was 11.6%. “We’ll be thinking about in the future adjusting that assumption to less than 20%.”

Using the 20% estimate, 731 people would be hospitalized in Delaware. Even that number is still well within hospital capacity. “We’re happy that’s tracking in a way that’s manageable as we get down the road with more cases. We’re hoping the reason for these numbers is all the actions we’ve taken since the beginning of March.”

Carney said the state still needs to see more widespread testing before there is consideration of rescinding his emergency orders for residents to stay at home and for out-of-state visitors to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

Those emergency orders were extended last week until May 15. But Carney warns that date is not a target date to re-open the state. “I wish I knew. I wish I had a crystal ball and could determine when we’re going to reach our peak,” Carney said.

“But we can’t get ahead of ourselves, our message today is ‘stay the course,’ it seems to be working,” he said. “We want to have a healthy community and a healthy economy. You have to have them both.”

Twelfth correctional officer sickened

Another worker at Delaware’s largest prison is quarantined at home after coming down with flu-like symptoms. The correctional officer was assigned to supervise an inmate who was being treated at a local hospital on April 6.

“DOC Officers are actively supporting and following our aggressive screening and monitoring policies to help guard against the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said. “Individually as corrections professionals, and together as a Department, the DOC continues to take necessary steps every day to protect the health and safety of our Officers, healthcare workers, other employees, and inmates.”

A total of 12 prisoners at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna have COVID-19, officials said.

Eight of them have no symptoms such as fever or cough and were identified through proactive testing by medical provider Centurion of Delaware. A total of 45 men in the minimum housing unit were tested.

Court closure extended

The majority of Delaware’s courts will remain closed through at least May 14 under a new order given by Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz. He originally shuttered most in-person court activity on March 14. Today, Seitz extended the closure of all court facilities to the public, except for the three Justice of the Peace Court’s 24-hour facilities in each county.

“We are continuing to conduct necessary and urgent court operations,” Seitz said in a statement Tuesday. “Consistent with the Governor’s ongoing Emergency Orders, I am issuing an order extending both the judicial emergency and the restriction barring the public from court facilities for an additional 30 days.”

All trials have been put on hold and most hearings have been held by video conference or over the phone.

Last week, Gov. Carney extended his emergency orders for another month.  By law, a state of emergency declaration expires after 30 days unless it is renewed by the governor. The declaration officially renews the emergency order Carney first put in place on March 12.

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