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States across the country are reporting record numbers of daily infections. How is Delaware faring?

Brandon Holveck
Delaware News Journal

With more than 80,000 COVID-19 cases reported in the United States on Friday, the latest coronavirus surge is once again setting records across the country more than seven months into the pandemic.

Although Delaware's averages for new cases, hospitalizations and the percentage of persons who tested positive have been on an upswing since the start of September, the state ranks among the middle of the pack in cases per capita. It has so far avoided the sharp rises experienced in recent days by neighboring states such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Delaware ranks 37th among the 50 states with 93 cases per 100,000 people, according to a New York Times database. Over the past week, there has been an average of 129 cases per day, according to the Times, an increase of 4% from the average two weeks earlier.

In New Jersey, the average number of cases per day last week increased 62% from two weeks earlier. In Pennsylvania, that figure is 23%.

Delaware runs state COVID-19 testing on the Delaware Tech campus in Georgetown on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.

Unlike the start of the pandemic, when a surge in cases in the Northeast fueled rising numbers nationwide, the recent uptick coincides with outbreaks in rural Midwest counties and small metro areas, as well as major Midwest cities like Chicago and Milwaukee.

North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana have reported the most cases per capita.

However, Delaware's numbers have increased enough since the state initiated reopening measures in June to warrant concern from public officials.

The numbers: Tracking coronavirus cases in Delaware

The seven-day average for new cases in Delaware has been at or above 120 for all of October. The average last consistently reached that level in mid-July. 

The number of deaths in October has already matched the death toll in September (31) and has eclipsed August's toll by 11. Delaware has reported 681 deaths and 23,961 positive cases through Saturday.

"Is it concerning? Yes," Gov. John Carney said earlier this month. "It's not headed in the right direction."

Gov. John Carney speaks with Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the state Division of Public Health, before administration offices conduct a press briefing on the state's response to COVID-19 on April 9, 2020, at the Carvel State Building.

Meanwhile, Delawareans now have a more clear picture of how their state's testing compares with other states.

Delaware recently started reporting the percentage of tests that are positive. It previously reported only the percentage of people tested who tested positive, meaning people who tested negative multiple times were recorded only once.

Database: Help The News Journal track COVID-19 in Delaware schools

The percentage of tests that are positive — the new metric — reflects a lower rate (a 3.1% average over the last seven days) than the percentage of persons testing positive (a 6.9% average over the last seven days).

The lower rate places Delaware within the best 15 states in terms of positive test rate.

It is still unclear who is ending up in the hospital because of the virus. The state doesn't require that hospitals report data regarding race or age and the hospitals aren't providing it publicly.

The seven-day average for hospitalizations reached a nadir of 33 on Aug. 18, according to the Times. The current average is 105. The average reached a high point of 312 on May 1.

In September, officials attributed rising case counts to students returning to college campuses and a another wave of outbreaks in long-term care facilities. The weeks since have revealed varying results.

The University of Delaware, which was a target of stricter private gathering rules implemented in Newark in August, reported between 67 and 80 cases each week in September. In October, its cases are down, reporting between 20 and 39 cases each week.

Covid-19 safety measures have been placed all around the campus of Delaware State University in Dover.

The Division of Public Health is continuing to investigate outbreaks at several long-term care facilities including Kentmere Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Wilmington, where 54 residents and 42 staff members have tested positive, Cadia Healthcare Silverside in Talleyville (44 residents and 32 staff members) and Country Rest Home in Greenwood (31 residents and 18 staff members).

The agency is also investigating a newly reported outbreak at Regency Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Wilmington, where 38 residents and 15 staff members have tested positive. 

Through 6 p.m. Thursday, 1,457 positive cases have involved residents of long-term care facilities, 395 of whom died from complications related to the virus. 

Contact Brandon Holveck at bholveck@delawareonline.com. Follow him on Twitter @holveck_brandon.