Del. coronavirus recovery: Hospitalizations for COVID-19 rise again

Dr. Karyl Rattay, Director, Delaware Division of Public Health answers questions regarding Delaware’s response to coronavirus disease during a press briefing in the auditorium Friday April 3, 2020 at Carvel State Office building in Wilmington, DE.

(Saquan Stimpson / WHYY)

Dr. Karyl Rattay, Director, Delaware Division of Public Health answers questions regarding Delaware’s response to coronavirus disease during a press briefing in the auditorium Friday April 3, 2020 at Carvel State Office building in Wilmington, DE. (Saquan Stimpson / WHYY)

Delaware is facing a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, with significant increases in Sussex County. On Tuesday, there were 112 coronavirus hospitalizations, with 19 of those patients in critical condition.

“What we believe we are seeing is, we know in late August and September we saw increases in our case rates as a state, and although that seems to be leveling off, hospitalizations is a lagging indicator,” the state Division of Public Health director, Dr. Karyl Rattay, said during a Tuesday press conference. “So, we think through community spread, that is why we now have higher numbers of individuals who are hospitalized.”

Though there are no “hot spots” for COVID-19 in Delaware, Rattay said, the state is keeping an eye on “warm” areas, and officials are encouraging residents in those locations to get tested. Those areas are Brandywine Hundred and Wilmington in New Castle County, Camden-Wyoming in Kent County, and Ellendale, Lewes and Georgetown in Sussex County.

Twenty- to 35-year-olds are driving the increase in cases, Rattay said. Social and family gatherings remain a significant concern of transmission risk, she said, and gave an example in Delaware in which 50% of individuals who went to a house party became positive with the new coronavirus after their attendance.

“Then it’s easy to see how a cluster of infections like that and everybody goes back to their life of going to school or teaching or working or spending time with others, how you get more community spread,” Rattay said.

While cases have increased in New Castle County, the city of Newark has started to flatten out after facing spikes as University of Delaware students returned to campus, despite conducting most classes online. On Sept. 6, there were 95 cases at the university. This week, however, there were fewer than eight cases.

There had also been a slight increase in cases among non-UD students, with the highest peak the week of Sept 27. That, too, has also decreased slightly. Gov. John Carney credited the decrease to university and city officials targeting off-campus gatherings.

“Let’s keep up the good work,” Carney said during Tuesday’s press conference. “Let’s wear our masks, let’s pay attention to social distancing, observe the limitations on social gatherings off campus, and let’s keep our numbers down.”

Carney briefly talked about the criteria for schools to reopen. Given the fact that the number of COVID-19 cases has not been declining, the state does not predict schools will return to normal any time soon. However, schools will begin hybrid learning in a couple weeks.

The decision is based on the number of new cases, the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests and the number of hospitalizations. The state’s formula has determined that Delaware is in the “minimum to moderate” phase of the pandemic, which allows for a hybrid model. Schools will focus on elementary students and students with disabilities for in-person instruction.

The state also will test students for COVID-19 once or twice a month.

Officials also discussed the plan for a COVID-19 vaccine. The state will submit an early draft of its vaccine plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, and will be updating the public on that plan. The state will work on its ethics committee to determine who should be receiving the vaccine first.

“We want to make sure Delawareans know we will not be distributing a vaccine that is not safe and has not gone through the appropriate FDA approval process,” Rattay said.

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