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Other states put Delaware on quarantine list as positive test rates rise

Delaware's 5.3 percent rate is puny compared to Arizona's 25.3 percent, Florida's 18.7 percent and South Carolina's 16.6 percent.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are adding Delaware residents to the list of those who must quarantine for two weeks if they visit those states, Gov. John Carney was told Tuesday morning.

He’s not happy about it.

Delaware’s 5.3 percent overall rate of positive tests for coronavirus is puny compared to Arizona’s 25.3 percent, Florida’s 18.7 percent and South Carolina’s 16.6 percent, Carney pointed out during his weekly online coronavirus press conference.

Delaware’s higher rate also largely the result of aggressive testing in hot spots Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach, which saw 4,166 tests performed in the last week, with 264 positives — or 6.34 percent, he said.

“I don’t believe we belong in the same category as these other states, notwithstanding the recent uptick that we’ve had,” Carney said.

He’s going to make some calls, he said.

The governor seemed particularly unhappy that the quarantines came from “our partners in the region that we’ve tried to help when they needed our help.”

Carney pointed out that when people were packing Delaware beaches around St. Patrick’s Day and or packing liquor stores along the Pennsylvania border because Pennsylvania had stopped the sale of alcohol, Delaware didn’t call out any state for that. It just moved to solve the problem.

“There’s nothing … any of these other states have identified as Delaware being the problem on New Jersey beaches or New York beaches or anything,” Carney said.

It’s only because the state leaned into testing in the beach area to try to slow the number of positive cases. That put the state slightly above the World Health Organization’s recommended rate of 5 percent, he said.

He said the state wouldn’t retaliate and he said he hopes there’s never a need to consider it. He’d rather employ a targeted solution such as ramping up testing to identify cases rather than a blanket solution such as a similar quarantine.

“I hope this is the end of the uptick in the beach communities,” he said. ‘We’re going to keep our eyes on it.”

Carney’s hour-long press conference touched a lot of topics. They included:

Opening schools

Carney said the state is getting a lot of questions about schools, and the Department of Education had submitted an opening plan to the Division of Public Health for review. It will include recommendations for bringing children safely back to classrooms, but also how to make sure all children have the tools they need to learn.

When you pile kids into schools, “It’s hard to distance them,” he said, as they walk from to and from classrooms and lunch.

“Our goal is to get as much in-person instruction as possible, but to do it in a way that’s safe,” he said. “It can’t be one or the other. It has to be both.”

Going back to Phase One

Carney said in a response to a question that he does not want the state to roll back to phase one of the reopening.

“We need to have a healthy community and a healthy economy,” he said. “It’s not an either/or. They come at the same time.”

Daily COVID press releases will end

Public Health will stop putting out daily press releases about COVID-19 cases, said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health. The state site will be updated daily, but a new weekly press release will highlight trends instead of daily case numbers.

The state website also will be expanded to include the percent of positive cases per zip code, as well as a contact tracer dashboard.

Median age of positive cases has dropped almost in half

Rattay showed a slide that tracked the median age of those who tested positive for the coronavirus. The median age means that half the people who tested positive are older than that, and half are younger.

At one end, it showed the start of the epidemic in Delaware, when the median age was 45 to 46.

Recent tests have put the median age in the upper 20s, she said.

“That’s a really significant change in who’s testing positive,” Rattay said.

The politics of wearing a mask

Carney said that he while he had no statistics to back it up, he noticed more people seemed to be wearing masks, which he asked them to do on last week’s broadcast.

Wearing a mask has been a recommendation from national and state health officials.

It’s sad and counterproductive that wearing a mask has become a political issue, Carney said.

“So don’t make it a political statement one way or the other,” Carney said. “Just wear a mask to to protect your family, to protect your elderly relatives and neighbors and friends. It’s probably the most important thing each of us can do to press down that curve now that we’re not using shutdowns and business closings to do it.”

Testing at the beach

Rattay thanked beach organizations and businesses, Beebe Hospital and the Delaware Restaurant Association for helping with testing at the beaches. She was there over the Fourth of July weekend and said she saw a lot of restaurants enforcing rules.

In addition to testing, the state will use contact tracing, isolation and quarantining as methods to help avoid the spread of the virus from person to person, he said.

“We’re certainly not saying at this point we’re out of the woods,” she said. The state still wants anyone who has been to the beaches in recent weeks, worked at the beach or stayed there with people with whom they had not been isolating to get tested.

Inspecting businesses

Rattay said the state had received 700 complaints in the last two weeks about places that were not following COVID-19 safety guidelines and had inspected 200 sites.

The 38 that she had been to were perfect, she said.

But some places are resistant to making changes, she said. They could face fines and even closure, she said.

State wants everyone tested

The state continues to ask everyone to be tested for the virus. It is offering testing at 18 locations this week in Delaware.

To find a site near you, go to https://coronavirus.delaware.gov/testing/

Please register, said A.J. Schall, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency. As many as 1,000 people show up for the testings and pre-registering makes sure a person can get in, and do it in a timely manner.

Hot summer days and the elderly

Because of the pandemic, elderly people who once could go to libraries or malls to cool off don’t have many options, Schall said.

He asked people to stay in touch with relatives and neighbors who might need help. If they needed bills paid or cooling equipment, he suggested calling the United Way at 211 to be connected to organizations that can help.

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