Del. coronavirus recovery: State’s COVID numbers going in the wrong direction

Delaware’s coronavirus curve is trending up from its low point in mid-August. The rise comes as state leaders worry about the start of flu season.

Nurses with ChristianaCare wait for the next vehicle to arrive to test people for the coronavirus on Friday, March 13, 2020, at the Riverfront complex in downtown Wilmington, Del. (Butch Comegys for WHYY)

Nurses with ChristianaCare wait for the next vehicle to arrive to test people for the coronavirus on Friday, March 13, 2020, at the Riverfront complex in downtown Wilmington, Del. (Butch Comegys for WHYY)

The trend lines on the graphs at the state’s COVID-19 tracking website look U-shaped. Lower numbers seen in a number of categories over the summer have rebounded in September.

On Aug. 15, just 3.4% of people tested for the coronavirus were positive. The 14-day average for positive tests that day was 4.4%. On Sept. 28, 7.1% of tests came back positive, and the 14-day average is up to 7.2%.

The graph showing the number of patients being treated for coronavirus in Delaware hospitals shows a similar up curve. On Aug. 15, just 30 people were hospitalized for the virus. On Sept. 28, that’s more than doubled to 64 patients.

The state now averages 109.3 new cases every day. The Aug. 15 average was 71.1 per day.

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“We really started to make good progress as we went into early August,” Gov. John Carney said. “We’re seeing a little bit of a surge here in Delaware which is pushing our cases up about 10% over where we were a week or two ago.”

He said the uptick appears to coincide with the return of some students in both grade school and college. The state’s standard for reopening schools is tied to getting the percentage of positive tests to below 3%, well under the current 7% rate.

On Friday, the state issued numbers on cases at schools that have returned to some in-classroom education. Between Sept. 1 and Sept. 24, 15 students and staff at private schools and 13 students and staff at public schools have tested positive for the virus. Another 16 students and staff at childcare centers were also positive.

New round of outbreaks at long-term care facilities

The state is concerned about a new round of outbreaks in several long-term care facilities. At Kentmere Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Wilmington, there are 28 residents and 24 staff members who have been diagnosed with the virus. There are nearly 30 cases among residents and staff members at Cadia Healthcare Silverside in Wilmington. Eighteen residents and 14 staffers have the virus at Country Rest Home in Greenwood.

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While the state recently reopened long-term care facilities to allow visitors under certain circumstances, the Div. of Public Health says visitation does not appear to be the blame since none of the facilities that had an outbreak had started visitation yet. They’re still investigating the source of the exposure in the affected locations.

The state is conducting site surveys at long-term care facilities to make sure proper protocols are being followed and that residents who need to isolate are kept separate from others.

They’ve also increased testing frequency at the facilities. “We went back to the requirement for weekly testing for all staff,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “A number of facilities had been able to go to bi-weekly testing, which means they hadn’t had any positive cases.”

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 1,266 COVID cases at long-term care facilities in the state. About 30% of those patients, more than 370, have died.

Carney urges residents to get flu shots

As flu season arrives, health leaders are concerned about a combo effect of both COVID patients and flu patients pouring into and overwhelming hospitals and doctors’ offices. Carney urged residents to get their flu shots before the end of October and he followed his own advice and rolled up his sleeve as Rattay administered his flu vaccine during Tuesday’s news conference.

“The flu vaccine isn’t going to prevent you from getting COVID, but it will lower your risk for illness,” Rattay said. “It lowers your risk for more severe illness, for needing to go to the doctor.”

The state is launching a public awareness campaign dubbed Fight Flu Delaware in an effort to encourage more people to get their vaccine.

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