Gov. Carney calls rising coronavirus cases a ‘general malaise’ across Delaware

Delaware Gov. John Carney

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)

Delaware’s daily case count for COVID-19 has more than doubled since mid-August and hospitalizations have tripled, leading Gov. John Carney to stress Tuesday that the state is “moving in the wrong direction.”

Carney and his public health director stressed that they don’t want to increase restrictions and go back to the situation in the spring when stores and most businesses were closed, schools could only offer remote learning, and people couldn’t visit loved ones in nursing homes.

To prevent that from happening and to allow for a broader reopening, residents must be more vigilant in avoiding crowded places, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance from others who might be “shedding” the coronavirus, Carney stressed.

“If we’re going to get back to a more normal economy with people back to work and more children in front of teachers in school, what we ought to do is not forget about the virus and act like it’s not here and not take precautionary measures,’’ he said.

Carney’s warning was yet another repetition of the themes he has been sounding for the nearly eight months since the coronavirus first struck Delaware on March 11.

But now he’s speaking with renewed urgency.

That’s because 87 people are now hospitalized, compared with 29 on Aug. 15. He emphasized, however, that the current number of people getting in-patient treatment is nowhere near the high of 337 on April 27, early in the pandemic.

The current average daily rate of new cases is 140, a figure that has put frequently landed Delaware on the quarantine list for Pennsylvania New Jersey and other states. The daily rate was 64 on August 20.

Overall, the state’s case count has reached about 21,500. That’s more than 2% of the state’s population.

So while Delaware is currently in Phase 2 of reopening, with retail businesses, restaurants, gyms, and other facilities limited to 60 percent of capacity or less, it’s now closer to a Phase 1 lockdown than to a Phase 3 full reopening.

Echoed by Karyl Rattay, who heads the Division of Public Health, said the persistent “uptick’’ is concerning. While it doesn’t constitute an outbreak or point to a specific hotspot, it’s more of a “general malaise across the whole state.”

For example, the University of Delaware has had 370 cases, Rattay said, noting that younger Delawareans with a propensity to have indoor gatherings have been more likely than older residents to get the disease in recent months. Cases are also up in Wilmington, the state’s largest city, and in some nursing homes.

Contact tracing over the last week has also shown that the most frequently visited place of people who have tested positive has been a restaurant. Other places where infected people have been at higher rates include gyms, house parties, weddings and religious services, though that doesn’t mean that’s where they contracted the coronavirus, according to state data.

“If we don’t want to go backward,” Carney said, “follow the guidelines.”

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