Gov. Carney warns of more restrictions amid Delaware spike in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations

Delaware Gov. John Carney

Delaware Gov. John Carney (Office of Gov. John Carney)

With coronavirus cases and hospitalizations spiking dramatically in Delaware, Gov. John Carney warned Tuesday that restrictions on indoor gatherings, sports events and other activities could be coming if residents don’t “voluntarily” pull together to stem the spread.

Fresh off his landslide re-election to a second term, the governor said during his weekly coronavirus briefing that it’s unacceptable that the average daily case count is 241 – twice that of a month ago – and that hospitalizations, now at 127, are twice the total in late September.

“We’re moving in the wrong direction,’’ Carney said. “So fundamentally, our message today, particularly as we move into Thanksgiving Day holiday season, we need to do a better job.

“We need to make sure we’re monitoring our social environments, where people go out to not necessarily a restaurant but invite people to watch a sporting event or a movie on TV and you know, have drinks and cocktails and enjoy each other’s company without masks on.”

Carney spoke as two of the last three days saw more than 300 new cases reported, bringing the total positive cases since March to 27,112 – nearly 3% of the state’s total population.

Three times in late April the daily case count exceeded 400 but officials said then that those counts reflected a backlog of cases from previous days due to delays in processing tests in the first weeks after the virus struck Delaware on March 10.

The current weekly average of positive tests is 4.6%, a level not seen since early July.

Twenty-nine of the 127 hospital patients with COVID-19 are in critical condition – nearly three times as many as late September.

A total of 722 Delawareans have died of coronavirus-related causes, health officials say. Fifty-four of the patients died in the last month alone.

The state’s sharply elevated totals come as much of the nation is experiencing similar outbreaks.

Carney and public health director Dr. Karyl Rattay would not discuss what exact restrictions they are considering if the counts don’t reverse. Both said they don’t want to close school doors, as the governor did in late March, but suggested they would look to nearby states to have a consistent regional approach.

This week, for example, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered his state’s bars and restaurants to stop indoor dining from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Murphy is also prohibiting indoor youth sports teams from playing teams from other states.

Though most Delaware public schools are currently learning remotely, many are planning to bring students into buildings in current weeks. Rattay said schools have been relatively safe places, with only a few hundred cases among students and staff statewide and the vast majority contracting the virus outside of school.

The health director also said restaurants and retail businesses have made great strides in taking precautions so they can conduct business safely.

She echoed Carney in singling out religious services, weddings and informal gatherings in homes as troubling.

“We have to get a handle on how we approach social activities because this is how the virus is transmitted,’’ Rattay said. “The recommendations [officials might order] are not going to be what people want to hear.”

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