Coronavirus update: Delaware’s positive tests, hospitalizations and other stats trending down

National Guard soldiers and airmen assist with a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site.

National Guard soldiers and airmen assist with a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site. (Cotton Puryear/U.S. National Guard)

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As of Monday, 6,565 Delawareans contracted COVID-19, and 225 people died of related causes. A total of 275 people were hospitalized, down from a high of 337 on April 27.

Flattening of the coronavirus curve appears to be occurring in Delaware, the latest data show, with fewer patients critically ill, hospitalizations leveling off, and the percentage of people testing positive dropping substantially.

With testing ramping up substantially, only 9.8% of the 1,743 people whose test results were reported Sunday had COVID-19 – the lowest number in more than two weeks, state public health records analyzed by WHYY News revealed. By contrast, on April 24, 42% of the tests came back positive, and the figure was 28% on May 2.

A 14-day decline in the percentage of people who test positive is one of the benchmarks Gov. John Carney is eyeing so he can move to Phase 1 of reopening Delaware’s economy on June 1.

Carney is using a five-day average to monitor the trendline, and the state’s coronavirus website shows downward movement for that benchmark and other key ones, including current and new hospitalizations.

“We are making progress in our fight against COVID-19,’’ Carney said in a news release issued Sunday. “But Delawareans can’t let up. Don’t go out in public unnecessarily. Wear a face covering when you need to go out. Wash your hands. Cover your cough. Disinfect surfaces frequently. And stay informed at de.gov/coronavirus.”

The first phase of the guidelines set by the White House is limited, and still prohibits, for example, the opening of youth camps, visits to nursing homes and the opening of bars. But it does allow restaurants, movie theaters, sporting venues and churches to open under strict physical distancing guidelines.

Starting Friday, Carney allowed some retail businesses to take what he called “baby steps” toward Phase 1. Department stores and many other non-essential retail outlets can now offer curbside service, and hair salons can operate with strict sanitizing rules and limits on customers.

Farm markets can reopen but can’t be ‘social venue’

Stands and other markets where farmers can sell the food they produce can reopen starting Friday under stringent guidelines which warn operators that “social gatherings” and amenities such as entertainment and food trucks are not permitted.

“We want to make sure that opening the farmers’ markets in Delaware is done in a way that maximizes the safety of market staff, family farmers, and the customers who are looking to purchase produce, specialty crops, and other value-added food items,” agriculture secretary Michael T. Scuse said.

“We know a lot more about COVID-19 now and the steps we all need to take to prevent the spread of this disease. Farmers’ markets will not be the same social experience as they were prior to COVID-19, but we hope that Delawareans will utilize the markets as a place to purchase locally produced food.”

So that they don’t become a “social venue,’’ Scuse’s office is also banning prepared food for consumption on-site, demonstrations and pets, except for service animals.

All customers, staff and vendors must wear a face covering or they will be denied entrance, and only two customers will be permitted inside the market at once. Market staff, vendors and customers must also maintain a six-foot distance from others. Only employees can package the food.

Univ. of Del. sets tentative limited reopening

The University of Delaware continues to follow Carney’s guidance, and has moved summer classes online and deferred or virtualized other summer programs that were to take place on its Newark campus.

The state’s flagship university is now targeting June 1 to begin reactivating campus operations on a phased-in basis, starting with our research facilities, president Dennis Assanis wrote in a letter to the school community over the weekend.

“Our rate of reopening facilities will be contingent on sufficient testing, tracing and personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff,’’ Assanis wrote. “This phased approach is essential to monitor the effectiveness of social-distancing, face covering and hygiene protocols, and will be adjusted, as needed, so that we can expand the population of the campus in alignment with the state’s reopening plans.”

A new Campus Reopening and Fall Planning Task Force will chart “the safest and most efficient pathway for resuming operations’’ through the summer and heading into the fall semester, Assanis wrote.

Order ensures students, teachers ‘not punished’

With Delaware schools closed for the 2019-20 academic year and remote learning the only option, Carney also suspended end-of-year evaluations for teachers and waived the required number of learning days for students and teachers.

“Students and educators across our state, especially our 2020 senior class, have been significantly affected by this COVID-19 crisis,” Carney said in a statement issued Sunday.

The governor said the latest modification to his March 12 State of Emergency order “will make sure students and educators are not punished because of the shortened school year.”

“Thank you to all of Delaware’s students, educators and school leaders who have really leaned into remote learning during this challenging, unusual time,” Carney added.

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