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Science, Health, Tech

COVID cases are rising, hospitals are busy, and no mask mandate from the state

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ChristianaCare
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As COVID cases continue to rise in Delaware prior to Christmas, Gov. John Carney is not calling for any mask mandate.

Gov. Carney says it is important to wear masks and practice social distancing when possible, but his objective is voluntary compliance when it comes to masks indoors.

He supports businesses with mask mandates in place, and calls wearing masks the second most important way to fight COVID behind getting vaccinated.

But even with the 7-day average of positive cases seven times higher than what the state wants to see, Carney won’t turn to a government issued mask mandate. He hopes medical experts like Beebe Healthcare’s Dr. David Tam and ChristianaCare’s Sharon Kurfuerst can make the case better.

"At the end of the day it comes down to how do you get people to do things that in many cases they don't want to do, and people are tired of that," said Carney."One of the reasons that we bought was Sharon and Dr. Tam on is to show how important it is to take a simple measure like wearing a mask."

But Carney adds he fights every day to keep school mask mandates in place to keep kids learning in person safely.

And to help busy hospitals and long-term care facilities, Carney says at least 50 National Guard members will be trained by mid-January to help with an alternative care site for hospital patients to ease overburdened healthcare systems.

The rise in COVID cases in Delaware is putting a strain on the hospitals statewide.

As of December 20, The state had 390 hospitalizations with 49 people in critical condition - the highest number of hospitalizations since peaking at 474 in January.

But hospitals had more room in January, making it easier to deal with COVID patients then than it is now with the state more open.

Staffing is stretched, space is limited, and that’s on top of juggling supply chains and equipment needs every day according to hospital officials.

ChristianaCare’s chief operating officer Sharon Kurfuerst calls the situation dire.

"Our beds are full. We are running at frequently over 100% capacity, often around 110, 115% capacity in our hospitals. Our emergency departments are incredibly busy. They are very crowded. Patients are waiting longer than usual to receive care," said Kurfuest.

Beebe president and CEO Dr. David Tam says they’ve seen COVID patients double since Thanksgiving with the majority of them unvaccinated. In hospitals overall, 71 percent of patients are either unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

Both officials agree, get vaccinated, get your booster, get tested if you’re feeling sick - and get vaccinated for the flu.