Two Delawareans under investigation for novel coronavirus test negative, pending confirmation
State health officials have announced two more Delawareans have tested negative for the deadly novel coronavirus disease .
The two patients previously under investigation for COVID-19 were in Kent County and had visited a country under a travel alert, public health officials announced Monday. The two tests are the first conducted in the Delaware Public Health Laboratory in Smyrna, and are considered "presumptive," pending confirmation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The news comes as additional deaths from COVID-19 are announced on the West Coast. Cases have been confirmed on the East Coast, but no one in Delaware has tested positive for the virus yet.
Three other Delaware patients previously under investigation tested negative.
The state is currently monitoring 14 asymptomatic individuals who have recently returned from China, and as of Monday can conduct preliminary testing for the novel coronavirus in-state.
Public Health officials say as of Monday, the state can now conduct testing for the novel coronavirus in-state, and provide a “presumptive” result in about a day. The state’s results still need to be confirmed by the CDC. Officials say a presumptive positive test result would be announced to the public.
State Division of Public Health director Dr. Karyl Rattay says the state will continue to provide information to healthcare providers, businesses and schools.
“Community spread is likely, and our efforts, where previously they were focused on containing the virus, now we are shifting to a focus on mitigating the virus when it does begin to spread in our community,” she said.
State Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker maintains that the risk of catching the virus is low for the average Delawarean. But businesses need to be prepared.
“In the event of an outbreak locally, we will need employers to stress to their employees that they do not need to come to work when they are sick,” she said. “We recognize this can be a very difficult ask, especially for small businesses and for employees whose paychecks depend on every hour that they do work. But by limiting public interaction of people who are sick, this will be an important mitigation strategy if community spread does occur in our state.”
Officials are asking anyone who has traveled to China, Italy, South Korea or Iran in the past 14 days to contact the Division for self-monitoring information.
The University of Delaware is cancelling a study abroad program currently underway in Italy, where the CDC says there is widespread community transmission of the novel coronavirus disease.
Two University of Delaware (UD) students previously tested negative for the novel coronavirus.
UD spokeswoman Andrea Boyle Tippett says the University decided to cancel the remainder of the program after the federal government’s travel advisory to Italy was upgraded to level 3— Avoid Nonessential Travel.
“So even though the students were in Rome, about 300 miles away from the epicenter there in Milan, we thought that it was important to bring them home," she said. "We also found ways for them to complete their semester— so they’re going to be completing their semester online.”
UD has study abroad programs in sixteen other countries. Two other programs are in places with CDC travel health notices due to the novel coronavirus: Hong Kong, at level 1, and Japan, at level 2.
The Division of Public Health plans to open a call center this week to answer questions about the novel coronavirus.
This story has been updated.