Delaware Public Media

Delaware reports its first COVID-19 deaths

Mar 26, 2020

The First State announced its first two deaths related to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Division of Public Health (DPH) reports a 66-year-old man from Sussex County has died in the last 72 hours while hospitalized out of state.

He had underlying health conditions and was critically ill. And it's unclear what the source of his exposure was.

The other was an 86-year-old man living at the Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence in Newark. He also had underlying medical conditions. 6 other residents at the Newark facility also tested positive for COVID-19.


The Department of Health and Social Services says it is actively working with the facility to ensure resident and staff safety.


“The population who lives in these facilities are at the greatest risk for COVID-19, based on their age and underlying health conditions," said DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker in a statement. "Unfortunately, this death and the confirmed cases at this facility underscore the need for all long-term care facilities in Delaware to follow strict screening protocols for anyone entering their facilities.”


The state also updated Delaware’s total number of cases Thursday.  That stands at 143, up from 119 Wednesday. 15 people are currently hospitalized in Delaware with 9 critically ill.  Two additional Delawareans are hospitalized out of state.

There are 91 cases in New Castle County, 19 in Kent County and 33 in Sussex County. Patients range in age from 1 to 90.  The majority of cases, 68, are among people between 18-and-49 years old.

State officials say some of the confirmed cases now include healthcare workers in Delaware.

State Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said in teleconference Thursday the state is not yet able to release the total number of tests conducted in Delaware to include negative testing results. She attributes this to a data-sharing issue between the state and commercial labs.

“Part of our data issue is a backlog of negative results from the commercial lab side of the equation that we are working through," said Rattay. "We need to be confident that the numbers reported are accurate, but due to the delay in reporting we’re not able to release the exact number yet.”


Rattay says the state’s testing lab has conducted a total of 639 tests—48 positive and 591 negative. She says  this means the other 82 positive tests would have come from Delaware's commercial lab, LabCorp. She says the estimated number of negative tests from LabCorp is well over 1,000.

Rattay also says the hospital-run testing sites that launched earlier in the week have taken 2,617 samples as of Wednesday, but she adds that does not include tests taken in emergency departments, in-patient care unit or primary care practices.

Rattay says she anticipates the state bolstering its data to include maps and total number of tests in the coming days.

The state reports four individuals have recovered from COVID-19 in Delaware.

DPH Medical Director Dr. Rick Hong says to qualify as “recovered” a patient must be asymptomatic for at least three days without medication, and seven days past the first day of onset. He adds the state still asks the patient to practice social distancing for seven days afterwards.

“This is just in reaction to some of the data we have seen that some patients with a certain period without symptoms may still test positive,” said Hong.

Those recovered include a married couple from New Castle County who did not require hospitalization, and agreed to share their symptoms, which include fever, runny nose and body aches.

This story has been updated.