As the number of coronavirus cases increases, Delaware Gov. John Carney this week issued a strongly worded warning to “do better” and “tighten this up,” stopping just short of announcing restrictions will be imposed again, as they were earlier this year, and as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan did in his state this week.
“We’ve been saying this for weeks. … We can’t allow this thing to rage out of control,” Carney said, adding that his own extended family will not be gathering for a traditional Thanksgiving celebration and that large social gatherings should not be planned.
“It’s a sacrifice for our family, for sure, but we don’t want our mom to get sick and be exposed to COVID-19,” Carney said.
“We’re slipping in the wrong direction. People are getting tired or whatever, but when you see we’ve got a vaccine coming… Come on — we can do this,” he said.
If cases continue to mount, he said, “We might have to do something to get the attention of folks so it is more top-of-mind.”
“The recommendations are not going to be what people want to hear,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, who was with Carney at his weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
“We have to get a handle on how we approach social activities. This is really tough,” Rattay said, warning state residents to only dine at home and in restaurants with those who live in the same residence, unless they are outdoors.
She advised against socializing or having holiday celebrations with anyone other than those in the immediate household.
“We’ve got to keep it small this year. I really, truly, hope this is the last year we’re going to have to say this, but it’s really important we do everything we can to turn this around right now,” Rattay added.
“A number of states are implementing curfews on certain days. We have to consider restrictions on sports events or tournaments or further requirements on mask requirements. We are telling you this now because we don’t want to have to close schools again or have any additional impact on the community,” she emphasized.
“This virus wants to spread, and any moment you are not cautious is when it may get to you or any of your friends. We are asking that you help us so we don’t have to take additional actions. We can do this, Delaware. We know that we can,” Rattay said.
Hospitalizations again surpass 100
At mid-week, there had been 27,112 cases statewide thus far in the pandemic, with 722 deaths, 20 new hospitalizations this week, 127 total hospitalizations and 29 patients listed as in critical conditions.
“This is a concerning number that we are well over 100 hospitalizations now,” Carney said.
In Sussex County, there have been 8,645 cases in total.
“We have too many of our neighbors attending gatherings, informal gatherings, without masks and without precautions. … Our overall goal, as we’ve said for some time, is to have a heathy community,” he said.
Hogan, on Tuesday, reduced indoor capacity for bars and restaurants in Maryland from 75 percent back to 50 percent, as it was earlier this year. He also told Maryland residents to “immediately postpone or cancel” travel out of state, to quarantine upon returning to Maryland if travel out of state is mandatory and to work from home.
“The virus has returned to our state in a big way,” he said, vowing to “use every tool at our disposal.”
While many at the celebration for President-Elect Joe Biden in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday, Nov. 7, were wearing masks, when asked if they were concerned about those who had attended while unmasked, both Carney and Rattay said anyone who was there should be tested.
Concerning the impending vaccine against the coronavirus, Rattay said news early this week that the vaccine will be more effective than originally thought “was really good news.”
A state task force is meeting to develop an operational plan, and an ethics commission met last week to discuss who should be vaccinated first. She said those in long-term care, high-risk workers who provide medical care and first-responders will be vaccinated first, followed by those in primary healthcare, who don’t have direct contact with patients, who have underlying health conditions and who are in certain congregate settings.
The vaccine could be available in Delaware in December, she said, although expectations about it arriving in October or early November were not met.
“We will be ready whenever it comes,” Rattay said.
“In the meantime, we rely largely on voluntary compliance. … Where we need to be more careful is in indoor environments. We’re trying to hit a sweet-spot or strike a balance between the needs of a healthy community and the needs of a strong economy, and it’s a tough call,” Carney said.
Rattay said cases are increasing in Selbyville, Bethany Beach, Georgetown, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Seaford, Laurel, Delmar, Lincoln, Ellendale and cities in northern Delaware including Wilmington, Bear and Christiana.
Rattay said the virus is not being spread primarily in schools.
“School spread is really rare,” she said, noting that it appears to be caused by staff members eating lunch together, attending weddings and socializing outside of school.
Eating together while sitting closer than 6 feet apart is dangerous, she said, because masks are not worn while eating.
Students have been become infected while playing tackle football at recess without wearing masks, while carpooling without wearing masks and after having slumber parties, she said.
DOC suspends in-person visitation
On Wednesday, Nov. 11, the Delaware Department of Correction announced that, effective Thursday, Nov. 12, it was temporarily suspending in-person visitation in all of its Level V prison and Level IV work-release and violation-of-probation facilities as a precaution to protect inmates and staff from COVID-19.
“The Department of Correction is carefully monitoring the growing number of cases across Delaware, and as a precaution we are proactively suspending in-person visitation temporarily to reduce the risk of this illness entering and spreading within our facilities,” DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said. “Regular interaction with loved ones is very important, and the DOC provides phone access in all correctional facilities, as well as video visitation in every Level V prison to facilitate ongoing communication between inmates and their family and community supports.”
DOC officials said that thanks to “aggressive cleaning, screening and mitigation measures that have continued uninterrupted since this spring,” as of Nov. 11 there were only two isolated cases of COVID-19 among inmates, both from Sussex Correctional Institution. Those isolated cases, they said, were identified through proactive screening and testing, and both inmates were receiving treatment. There have been no new positive inmate COVID-19 test results since Oct. 29.
Carney: Delaware can be proud of its president-elect
Concerning last week’s election, Carney thanked everyone who voted and said that, despite long lines, there was respect for each other and no incidents of misbehavior or protest.
The election of Joe Biden “makes us puff out our chests a little bit and be proud Delaware can call the president of the United States its own,” Carney said.
He said he sees Biden’s election as an opportunity for the state.
“We’ll certainly use that in marketing Delaware as a place to do business, for tourism purposes, for us to attract more visitors. We have a thriving tourism business as it is. We have some of the best beaches. Delaware is just a wonderful place to visit, to live and work.
“We’re all very proud of Joe. We’re proud to be Delawareans, and I think it’s been good for us. It’s also good in respect to federal resources, and it certainly can’t but help with Joe Biden in the White House,” Carney said.
Carney on Nov. 10 also recognized veterans and the 245th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps “and each of you who served in the Marines.”
“Thank you for your tremendous service and to all veterans. We thank you for your service,” he said.