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Second coronavirus death reported in Delaware, cases rise to 165

A pedestrian uses her scooter on Market Street in Wilmington, Del., as she approaches a group of construction workers on Thursday, March 26, 2020.  (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

A pedestrian uses her scooter on Market Street in Wilmington, Del., as she approaches a group of construction workers on Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

Updated 5:45 p.m. 

The number of Delaware coronavirus cases stands at 165. There are 106 cases in New Castle County, 21 in Kent County and 38 in Sussex County. Twenty Delawareans are hospitalized with coronavirus. The 18-49 age group has the biggest number of cases with 74. The next highest age group is 65+ with 46 cases. The 50-64 age group has 42 cases. Only three people under the age of 17 have coronavirus in Delaware.

The second person in the state to die from coronavirus is an 86-year-old man who lived in a long-term care facility in Newark.

The resident of the Little Sisters of the Poor home in Newark had underlying medical conditions, state health officials said. Another six residents in that facility have also been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Gov. John Carney expressed his sympathy to the victim and his family during a webcast question-and-answer session Friday morning. “These are our neighbors, these are folks that we know. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their family members, their friends,” Carney said. “This is an institution which has been serving the elderly poor for as long as I can remember, doing the work of their patron saint, really doing extraordinary work.”

“We are deeply saddened to hear of this individual’s death,” said Kara Odom Walker, secretary of the state Department of Health and Social Services. “The population who lives in these facilities are at the greatest risk for COVID-19, based on their age and underlying health conditions.”

She said this incident highlights the need for all long-term care centers in the state to follow strict screening protocols for anyone coming into the facility.

On March 13, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued strong measures to protect workers and residents at long-term care centers. Those measures include restricting all visitors, except for circumstances like end-of-life situations. CMS also recommended limiting all group activities including communal dining, and restricting all volunteers and non-essential workers.

Odom Walker said the state is working with the Newark facility to ensure resident and staff safety.

Earlier Thursday, the state announced its first death related to coronavirus.

A 66-year-old man with underlying health conditions died at an out-of-state hospital, health officials said. It’s not clear how the man contracted the virus.

Delaware had gone longer than neighboring states before reporting a coronavirus death, but Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said today’s announcement is a “tragic reminder” of how dangerous this virus is. She said it reinforces the need for everyone to stay home, especially to help older residents and those with chronic health conditions.

Carney explains why liquor stores are staying open

Carney answered questions from the public and reporters online for nearly an hour Friday morning. One person asked why liquor stores were allowed to stay open as “essential businesses.”

Carney said that decision was made to reduce the number of people going to the emergency room.

“There are unfortunately a lot of Delawareans who have substance abuse problems and issues and if we were to close the liquor stores, there is a great fear that they would go into withdrawal symptoms and end up in our emergency rooms,” Carney said.

Carney said hospital officials advised him to keep the liquor stores open to prevent that kind of ER surge.

He said he’s often asked about the reasoning behind leaving the liquor stores open.

“Obviously a challenging and maybe a little bit of a confusing situation, but one that has a real reason for it with respect to preserving emergency room capacity,” Carney said.

Housing assistance plan launches

Renters struggling to pay for their housing because of the coronavirus can get help through a new assistance plan launched by the Delaware State Housing Authority Thursday.

Each eligible household will get up to $1,500 in assistance, with the money paid directly to the property owner or utility company. To qualify, renters must be able to show that they’ve been affected by shutdowns, closures, layoffs, reduced work hours, or unpaid leave due to the COVID-19 health crisis. Renters must also have a household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income for the county where they live.

The state is providing $2 million in funding for what’s called the Delaware Housing Assistance Program. New Castle County is adding another $500,000 to the fund.

Renters can apply at DEStateHousing.com or De.gov/coronavirus.

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