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Delaware’s COVID-19 numbers are rising in some locations, pushing state average up

The state is seeing the number of cases climb in Newark, zip codes 19802, 19805 and 19720, and also western Sussex County.

State officials say that the number of COVID-19 cases in the state is ticking upwards, partly because of college students partying off campus and partly because of the virus working its way through homes and families. 

Gov. John Carney said in his weekly coronavirus press conference Tuesday that Delaware’s coronavirus cases are still above 5% of those tested for a 6.7 percent rate over seven days. The state wants that below 3 percent. The number of new cases is about 104 per day, and the state wants that below 90 now and eventually below 10.

Health officials have been warning about a fall surge, when cool weather would put more people together indoors. Some Delaware schools have in-person classes and universities have opened. Carney suggested more people are lax about wearing masks and following COVID guidelines. And he wondered whether some of this might be a hangover from Labor Day parties just now showing up in tests.

Carney repeatedly urged people to be tested, whether they have symptoms or not.  That will help identify problem spots, but with a bonus for Delaware: The more people who test negative, the lower the state’s rate is, he has said repeatedly.

“Remember the tests are free, you don’t have to be symptomatic, it’s really easy to get up and do it in a short period of time,” Carney said. 

With nearly 20,000 total cases, 628 coronavirus related deaths and 62 current hospitalizations, state health authorities are focusing on particular areas that are seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases.

That includes college campuses such as the University of Delaware, which had 34 positive cases in one day but which is also embracing multiple education and enforcement efforts, and some specific zip codes.

“Obviously, the Newark cases are more tied to the return of school there, but not much we can pin the rest of it on,” Carney said.

He complimented Delaware State University’s handling of its students, which includes 3,000 tests a week and isolating students who are ill in quarantine facilities.

Among age groups, young adults 18-34 has the highest rate of positive cases, Carney said.

Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public health, said that outside of Newark, areas seeing a rise in cases are in the postal codes 19802, 19805 (where Carney lives) and 19720, as well as western Sussex County, including Bridgeville where a Sept. 6 rodeo saw 2,000 people attend without masks or social distancing

She focused on zip code 19805 because its positive cases are higher than other communities in the area. There have been 84 cases in that area code in the last two weeks, and it’s has a 9 percent positive rate, she said.

State epidemiologists are finding that there’s no single event or place tied to the outbreak of cases in 19805. Instead, Rattay said, the spread is coming from cases being passed around a home.

In response, Public Health has decided to do pop up testing in the area. 

Rattay and the DPH are planning to respond to these outbreaks much in the way that they have responded to earlier outbreaks this year in places such as the beaches and chicken plants. It wants to test as many people as possible to identify cases and isolate them to stop the virus jumping from person to person.

Carney and Rattay also repeatedly urged people to get flu shots. They are widely available in Delaware now from physician offices, drug stores and more, Rattay said.