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State hospitalizations top 300; Carney issues warning

With records numbers of new COVID-19 cases in the past week, Delaware health officials worry that hospitalizations will soar in the next week or two.
306 Delawareans were in state hospitals Saturday.
306 Delawareans with COVID-19 were in state hospitals Saturday.

Delaware Gov. John Carney issued a statement Saturday saying the rising tide of COVID-19 cases is only going to get worse in the next weeks.

Carney said in a statement that more than 300 Delawareans are now in the hospital with COVID-19. As of 5 p.m., that number was 306.

“And we’re likely to soon pass our spring peak of 337 hospitalizations,” he said. “We are facing a serious situation that promises only to get worse in the weeks ahead.”

Carney and other health officials have said repeatedly that the state has 400 to 450 hospital beds to handle COVID-19 cases. Nemours Children’s Hospital has space to put additional beds, and was set up to do that in spring before cases began declining. At the time, it was going to take general medical cases from other hospitals to allow them to treat more COVID cases.

On Friday, the state recorded another record for new cases: 916 new positive cases. It dropped Saturday to 681 new cases.

Health officials believe the week’s record numbers were caused by people traveling or gathering for Thanksgiving events.

Carney reacted to the rising numbers on Thursday by asking people to stay home again; asking schools to close or go to online-only classes from Dec. 14 through Jan. 11; prohibiting sports competitions from Dec. `4 until Jan. 11; and asked people to wear masks in their own homes whenever anyone came in who didn’t live there. Sports practices are allowed to continue, if they follow strict mask and other guidelines.

Officials worry about hospitalizations, because they are called “lagging indicators.” That means a week or two after the cases are diagnosed or symptoms show up, the illness becomes bad enough that the patient ends up hospitalized. Because there have been so many positive cases in the last two weeks, hospitalizations of those cases will be reflected in the next week or two.

“Delaware’s health care workers continue to work day and night to treat the sick and protect lives — as they’ve done throughout this crisis,” Carney said. “We owe them a deep debt of gratitude and our respect.

“Let’s follow their lead. We all know what to do. Do not gather with friends or family outside your household. Wear a mask any time you’re indoors with others you don’t live with. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.

A vaccine is on the way, Carney said.

“But we need to stay vigilant. These are small, temporary sacrifices that will save lives.”

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