'We can't afford another surge': Carney urges Delaware residents to stay home for Christmas
Gov. John Carney urged Delaware residents to stay home for Christmas, saying on Tuesday that the state must avoid another spike in hospitalizations.
"We can't afford another surge on top of the surge that we had coming out of Thanksgiving," Carney said during his weekly virtual coronavirus press briefing, warning that people need to avoid big gatherings and gatherings with others who don't live together during the holidays this year.
The warning, which Carney and other officials repeated multiple times during the briefing, came as Delaware reported a record 433 coronavirus-related hospitalizations as of Monday – more than double what the state reported less than a month ago.
The latest figure also falls within the estimated 400 to 500 total beds available for patients before hospitals are considered overrun, though Carney has referred to that estimate as a "moving target." State data also shows hospitals have not yet reached capacity.
The latest number of hospitalizations is also far more than the previous record reported during the spring surge, when the state reported 337 hospitalizations on April 27.
"We cannot have another surge of 200 or so on top of that coming out of the Christmas holidays," Carney said.
As of Monday, 872 people have died of COVID-19 in Delaware.
Meanwhile, the weekly average of new positive cases appears to be trending down over the past week. As of Monday, the weekly average is 645 as opposed to the all-time high of 826.4 reported a week ago.
Carney has said hospital staffing is currently a greater limiting factor than available beds, and patients appear to be staying in hospitals for shorter times than they did in the spring.
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The governor has issued an emergency executive order to allow out-of-state health care workers, heath care workers who have retired in the past five years, recent graduates and some health professional students to help hospitals with the surge. Those workers would work in hospitals under appropriate supervision, according to a spokesman for Carney's administration.
Delaware officials want to avoid another weeks-long surge in cases and subsequent hospitalizations like the one that followed Thanksgiving, which Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay on Tuesday referred to as "a super-spreader day for us as a state."
"We continue to recommend: Only gather with those who currently live with you during the holidays," Rattay said, adding that there are some exceptions such as adult children coming home to visit and needing a place to stay, or an aunt who lives all alone that you wouldn't want to be alone for the holidays.
"If you are going to gather with others, you have got to consider some factors and you need to put some mitigation strategies in place, and you need to have some tough conversations," she said.
People should wear face coverings when inside with people from outside their households, Rattay said. Non-household members should dine in separate areas or separate rooms, and while it's unrealistic to expect people to eat outside, people should keep air circulation going by opening windows or doors and dressing for colder temperatures.
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People should have already started quarantining, get tested three days before gathering, and groups should be "extremely limited" because large gatherings are a recipe for spreading the virus, Rattay added.
People who gather with others should also quarantine for seven days and get tested five to seven days afterward.
Carney is requiring residents to wear masks at all times when indoors with others people they don't live with, along with other recent restrictions implemented in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. These include capping indoor restaurant dining at 30% capacity and private gatherings indoors at 10 people.
Contact Sarah Gamard at (302) 324-2281 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.