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Health officials say COVID numbers headed in right direction

Carney Briefing Screenshot
Gov. John Carney holds virtual media briefing on COVID-19

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still high, but moving in the right direction.

Cases have fallen about 40% in recent weeks. As of Tuesday, the 7-day average for new cases was 1,643, while the 7-day average for positive tests fell to 23.8%, down from recent rates of greater than 30%.

Hospitalizations are also slowing down. 550 people remain hospitalized with COVID, down from a peak of 759 two weeks ago.

State health officials admit that "many" of those hospitalized with COVID were initially admitted for other reasons, but those patients still have an impact on hospital resources.

"They still have to place COVID-positive patients in a separate unit, which requires extra PPE, extra staffing," Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said. "So it is more resource-intensive whether you're admitted with the diagnosis for COVID - if COVID is the cause of your admission or not."

She also said due to the high rate of hospitalization, facilities continue to postpone elective procedures.

Noting that deaths continue to increase, Rattay says, at this point, the virus remains a serious threat. As of Thanksgiving around 2,200 Delaware residents had died from COVID.

“Since that time, we’ve lost nearly 300 additional Delawareans and when you compare that to our worst flu season in history where we lost 36 Delawareans, it’s clear we’re just not yet at a point where we can say this is endemic like flu,” she said.

Demand for testing is also declining. About 300-350 people were tested each day last weekend at a federal testing site at the Delaware City DMV. It was prepared to accommodate up to 1,000 tests a day. Officials plan to close the site Sunday, January 30.

In the meantime, Carney encourages people seeking at-home rapid tests to order them online from the federal government by visiting Covidtests.gov.

But Carney would not commit to a timetable for ending the current mask mandate, but says he won’t keep it in place any longer than necessary. He adds the school mask mandate is likely to continue.

Carney said the state is distributing 125,000 KN95 masks to educators, child care providers and students in 6th grade and up.

Rebecca Baer comes Delaware Public Media from The Florida Channel in Tallahassee where she covered state government and produced documentary features for the series, Florida Crossroads.