Record COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations subside in Delaware, but Carney fears another holiday surge

An airwoman provides a COVID-19 test

An airwoman provides a COVID-19 test on May 22, 2020. (Staff Sgt. Caleb Vance/U.S. Air National Guard)

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The record toll COVID-19 has exacted on Delaware this month has subsided a tad, but Gov. John Carney is bracing for another potential torrent of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from banned and discouraged gatherings over the holidays.

The state’s latest seven-day daily average of new coronavirus cases is 653. That’s a substantial drop from the record of 813 daily cases tallied just three weeks ago.

Hospitalizations had accelerated to a peak of 454 COVID patients a week ago but have since dropped to 827, with 60 patients in critical condition. As of Tuesday, 898 Delawareans had died of coronavirus-related causes since the first case was confirmed in March, state records show.

Authorities had blamed the early December surge on family and friends getting together before and on Thanksgiving Day. That led Carney to order bars and restaurants closed at 10 p.m. and schools restricted to online learning only from Dec. 14 to Jan. 11.

He also issued an order limiting in-home social gatherings to 10 people and urged people to avoid indoor gatherings with others outside their immediate households.

Officials will know during the first week of January “how well we did over the Christmas holiday,” Carney said during his weekly press briefing Tuesday, adding that this year was the first he couldn’t spend the day with his mother, who is now 89.

Dr. Karyl Rattay, the state’s public health director, seconded Carney’s concerns and pleaded with residents to lay low in the coming days by skipping the New Year’s Eve celebrations and New Year’s Day football fiestas.

“We just really want to emphasize that this is a terrible year to have in-person parties with people outside of your household,’’ Rattay said.

She said she isn’t trying to kill the holiday buzz but stressed that boozing it up while socializing often leads revelers to ditch their commitment to physical distancing requirements. And that leads to more cases and more infected people needing inpatient treatment, she said.

“As we have seen from our own data, house parties easily lead to super-spreader events. So we’re strongly urging people, please don’t have in-person celebrations at this point,’’ Rattay said.

“If you have come together with individuals, please make sure you quarantine afterward and get tested five to seven days after being exposed to anyone else.”

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