A 66-year-old Sussex County man has died from the coronavirus, making his the first death in the state.

The Delaware Division of Public Health announced the death Thursday afternoon but would not release his name, town of residence or how he was exposed.

He was hospitalized in Maryland, according to Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Health, who hosted a conference call for the media Thursday afternoon.

The man, she said, had underlying health conditions and was critically ill.

“We continue to hear instances of people gathering together in groups. If you know of someone who is sick, and not staying home, call the DPH and we will enforce this,  by court order if necessary,” she said.

“It should not take someone’s death to make people understand the importance of staying home,” she said.

There have been 130 confirmed cases in Delaware since March 11, with 27 from Sussex County, 86 from New Castle County and 17 from Kent County.

Seven are critically ill.

Sixty-three are male and 67 are female and they range in age from 1 to 90.

Thirteen are hospitalized in Delaware and two are in hospitals out of state.

The source of exposure for many is unknown, indicating what Rattay said is a certain sign of community spread.

“It’s so important for everyone to stay home -- especially those who are ill with any symptoms including fever, cough, body aches, sore throat, shortness of breath and even stomach aches, nausea and diarrhea,” she said.

The last three symptoms have only been reported in recent days.

“Stay home from work if your business is open because it is deemed essential. That means stay home from the grocery store and let somebody else make those trips for you,” she said.

She also warned those who think they have the virus not to go to a hospital emergency room but to call their doctors.

Statewide testing at standing health care sites began on Monday. These are not walk-in sites and a doctor’s order is required to get a test, although Bayhealth patients will be pre-screened via phone without needing a prescription.

Anyone who doesn’t have a doctor, or who has additional questions, can call the DPH Call Center Line at 1-866-408-1899 or-mail to DPHCall@delaware.gov.

Testing is done by nasal swab, which is uncomfortable, Rattay said.

Doctors have the option of sending test specimens to commercial or state labs. Sending to a state lab does require approval from the Division of Public Health and results are generally returned in 24 to 48 hours.

Labs are also  testing for other diseases, so turn around time might be longer.

Rattay said she has been asked why the Division of Public Health isn’t sharing the total number of both positive and negative test results.

“We have made great progress to our reporting and we will be adding to our website in recent weeks, but we don’t have total data. What we can now provide is, as of end of day yesterday (Wednesday), our state lab ran 639 tests and of those, 48 were positive and 591 were negative.

Sharing good news, Rattay said four Delaware residents who fell ill with coronavirus have recovered and returned to work, including a husband and wife from New Castle County.

Answering questions from reporters on the media conference call, Rattay said she could not reveal if the 1-year-old patient is hospitalized.

She said healthcare workers in Delaware have tested positive, which was not unexpected, and they are being told to stay at home.

A physician answering questions with Rattay, replying to a question from the Coastal Point, said there are concerns the virus can remain active after one’s death, so doctors are working with forensic scientists to gather and share information, especially with funeral directors.

Staff Reporter

Veteran news reporter Susan Canfora has written for many newspapers and held positions ranging from managing editor to her favorite, news reporter. She joined the Coastal Point in June 2019. She teaches college writing, tutors and professionally edits.