Delaware warns of rising flu cases in COVID-style health briefing

Delaware Gov. John Carney

File photo: Delaware Gov. John Carney answers questions regarding Delaware’s response to coronavirus during a press briefing at the Carvel State Office building in Wilmington on April 3, 2020. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

From the start of flu season in early October through Nov. 5, Delaware recorded 772 cases of flu, according to the latest available data from the state Division of Public Health.

The sharp rise in cases was enough for Gov. John Carney to revive, at least for one week, his online health briefings that were a staple during the height of the pandemic.

Monday afternoon, he spent about an hour sharing data from DPH and talking with health officials about their concerns and recommendations for residents to keep from spreading the virus.

“Be very thoughtful about the risk and various venues with respect to whether you should wear a mask or not,” Carney said. “Think about others. If you are feeling sick, it’s a good idea to wear a mask so you don’t spread it to your family members and others.”

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Flu hasn’t been much of a concern over the past two years, said state Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Molly Magarik, due to the masking and social distancing required under COVID protocols.

“This is going to be the first winter where we’re really starting to see the flu has roared back in with a level of intensity that is causing us to notice and to really wonder what the flu season is going to hold,” she said. “There were 772 cases through Nov. 5. They are doubling. The cases are doubling, and again, picking up in terms of numbers.”

Last week, the state launched an online tracker to provide details about the spread of flu in the state. That tracker mimics the online dashboard created in the early days of the pandemic to monitor COVID.

The increase in flu numbers comes as the state is averaging about 131 new COVID cases a day. Right now, 86 patients are being treated for the virus in Delaware hospitals, that’s down from 148 this time last year.

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The rise in flu cases and steady COVID numbers create concerns for a possible “tripledemic,” DPH officials say. That is the combination of COVID, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases.

Delaware has seen 505 RSV cases. “We have seen in surrounding areas that cases are starting to level off. That remains to be seen in Delaware,” Magarik said. She encouraged anyone with young children who seem to be having trouble breathing to seek emergency care right away.

The state will answer questions from parents about RSV at 6 p.m. Tuesday during a live streaming event on Facebook.

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