Governor Carney declares state of emergency but no emergency declaration for long term care facilities.
WILMINGTON (DE) BY DIGITAL STAFF: “We still face a very serious situation with COVID-19 in Delaware, especially in our hospital facilities,” said Governor Carney. “The best thing Delawareans can do to support those frontline health care workers is to remain vigilant – and do what works. After two years of this pandemic, we all know what to do. Mask up in public places to protect yourself and vulnerable family members. Get your vaccine. And get a booster if you’re eligible. That’s the best way to prevent serious illness and hospitalization.”
At his Thursday COVID-19 press conference, Governor John Carney said Delaware will reenter the state of emergency on Monday to allow the Delaware Air National Guard (DANG) to be trained as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)’s to assist hospitals that are being strained beyond capacity with COVID-19 related illnesses.
No new restrictions will go into the new emergency order the governor says but about 100 members of the Delaware Air National Guard are already being trained.
The use of DANG will enable Delaware hospitals to discharge patients out of their facilities to depopulate and move them into long term care facilities. So we’re already we’ve got about a hundred members of the Delaware National Guard.
“Most of our cases today are Delta, more severe and more likely to put you in the hospital,” Carney said. “But Omicron is coming. It’s been in other states at greater percentages and it moves like wildfire through a population which is part of our concern, so in order to enable us to help our hospital partners, depopulate and move patients from the hospital, emergency rooms, and and and beds in the hospitals into long-term care and other assisted facilities. We need some emergency powers and so I’ll be declaring a state of emergency effective this coming Monday. On January the third, it will give us additional flexibility to help manage the covid-19 surge and will enable.”
Molly Magarik, the new DHSS Secretary who also spoke at the press conference said “We’re really at a pivot point.”
“We really are at a pivot point and we really have two of the same virus circulating. We have the ongoing Delta Wave that started in November and is now being quickly overtaken and we continue to see the Omicron variant spread like brush fire throughout the state.”
She noted that testing is the hottest commodity right now. “We were doing about a thousand tests in June and last Monday they did 13,000.”
“Those people that are in the hospital with COVID are people that are unvaccinated. So it’s really pretty simple solution to this dilemma of this situation which is if you’re not vaccinated get vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, be careful. Wear a mask when you’re indoors in particular just as an extra caution.,” Carney said.
The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) reported the highest number of new positive daily cases since the start of the pandemic with 3,381 positive cases reported to the state Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021.
The state has broken records three times this week alone with new daily cases. By end of day Thursday, Delaware reported 1,991 cases. It’s been over 1,000 on a seven day moving average which is causing an increase in testing, which is also up by 15% on a seven day moving average.
“You’ll remember there was a time during the summer where things were really good when we were under one percent in terms of the percent positive.” Carney said, “Now, we’re up to fifteen percent.”
The World Health Organizations target is below 5%. Delaware is now three times that.
“We all have to step up and take personal responsibility and individually do what we need to do to prevent this from getting worse,” said Ellie Salinski, assistant medical director at Bayhealth’s Kent County emergency department. “If we don’t do that, I don’t know if and when that will happen.”
Although Delaware has a significant percentage of vaccinations, hospitals are seeing that the majority of patients coming in with COVID-19 symptoms are not vaccinated.
The total number of current COVID-19 hospitalizations surpassed the record high this week with 485 individuals hospitalized as of Thursday, Dec. 30. The previous high was 474 on Jan. 12, 2021.
“78% of the hospitalizations were people that are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. So it’s not just people that haven’t gotten any shots but if you’ve only had one shot, you haven’t been boosted. Uh we need you to that done.”, Carney pleaded.
Carney added, “And for those of you who are unvaccinated, it’s really important that you wear a mask when you’re in public in indoor spaces in particular, uh[sic]and at risk of getting or or transmitting the vaccine to others.”
Hospitals are feeling the strain and are pleading for the public to not show up unless it’s a real emergency.
As COVID-19 has surged all across the state since Thanksgiving and the first initial report of the Omicron variant in Delaware, hospitals all across the state have began to suspend elective surgeries and find other ways to depopulate their facilities as they become overwhelmed with people coming in with COVID and flu like symptoms.
In the first week of December, ChristianaCare suspended all elective surgeries but said they would continue surgeries for those already in the hospital. Affected patients would be contacted individually said a spokesperson. The last time ChristianaCare, the state’s largest hospital system, suspended elective surgeries was back in March of 2020 when the first wave of COVID-19 hit Delaware.
One of the first hospitals to suspend non-emergency surgeries was TidalHealth Nanticoke in Seaford. They suspended some surgeries back in September of 2021. TidalHealth Peninsula Regional in Salisbury also suspended elective surgeries due to the surge in COVID-related hospitalizations and was due mostly to the “highly contagious delta variant and vaccine hesitancy.”
“Patients who are ill with COVID are contributing to put stress and significant demand on the limited resources of the emergency department, hospital floors and the ICU, and the vast majority who are getting sick enough with COVID to require hospitalization are unvaccinated,” TidalHealth Peninsula Regional President of Medical Staff Mark Edney in a statement issued on Sept. 9.
“The subject of COVID vaccination has unfortunately become politicized, but there are some truths based on available community data and on current medical science that are indisputable,” he added in a statement.
BayHealth has not suspended elective surgeries that require overnight stays at this time. We reached out to them to see if there has been any changes.
And almost all Delaware Hospitals have made changes to visitations as well. According to a news release from ChristianaCare, “Due to increasing transmission rates of COVID-19 in the community, ChristianaCare is returning to limited visitation at its facilities in addition to continuing to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours for all visitors. Effective Sunday, January 2, 2022, at 12:01 a.m., NO VISITORS ARE ALLOWED for hospitalized patients at Christiana, Union and Wilmington Hospitals except for these circumstances.”
Beebe Healthcare have also made some visitor restrictions. “Starting Saturday, January 1, 2022, Beebe Healthcare is updating its visitor restrictions to allow inpatients to have one well visitor per day from 2-7 p.m. at the Margaret H. Rollins Lewes Campus.”
“Beebe Healthcare reviews our county and health system’s status several times daily. With an increase in hospitalizations at Beebe and across the state, we have once again decided to limit the hours for visitation,” said David A. Tam, MD, MBA, FACHE, President & CEO, Beebe Healthcare. “Due to the rapidly increasing spread of the Omicron variant we have also decided to standardize our mask requirements. Visitors are to wear surgical masks for their safety as well as the safety of our patients and team members. As always, Beebe requests the community’s help and support by getting vaccinated and remaining vigilant about staying healthy.” Get more detailed information on visitor restrictions here.
The number of positive cases are much likely to be higher as DPH says they have not processed some of the test results into the database.
Due to the large volume of COVID-19 lab results received recently by the Division of Public Health and the time needed to process the reported results into its database, some data typically reported in this weekly summary will not be available this week, specifically the weekly summary of the proportion of unvaccinated/partially vaccinated cases, hospitalizations and deaths; variant and sequencing updates; and breakthrough case data. DPH will work to provide updates on these data next week.
• Total positive cases since March 11, 2020: 180,366
• 7-day average of new positive cases: 1,503.1, a significant increase from 850.6 last week
• 7-day average for the percentage of total positive tests: 18.4%, a significant increase from 12% last week
• Hospitalizations: 485, an increase of 84 from last week; critically ill: 55, an increase of 3 from last week
• Total COVID-19 deaths: 2,286
• Total COVID-19 deaths reported since last week: 15
• Total number of doses administered in Delaware: 1,556,217
• Percentage of Delawareans 5+ who have received at least one dose (CDC data): 81.2%
• Percentage of Delawareans 12+ who have received at least one dose (CDC data): 86.7%
• Percentage of Delawareans 18+ who received at least one dose (CDC data): 88.7%
• Percent of Delawareans who are fully vaccinated (CDC data): 64.2%
All qualifying Delawareans should get vaccinated. Individuals who qualify for a booster dose should get one as soon as possible. For the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccine in Delaware, visit de.gov/getmyvaccine. For information on boosters, visit de.gov/boosters. Delaware’s latest COVID-19 vaccination statistics can be found under the Vaccine Tracker dashboard at de.gov/healthycommunity.
Long Term Care facilities are also feeling the horrific surge of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant but they say their hands are tied and they cannot keep family members from visiting their loved ones when an outbreak occurs.
Long-term Care facilities are also feeling the effects of COVID-19 and although the facilities have a responsibility to protect it’s residents and staff, the current emergency order does not restrict visitors when an outbreak occurs. When reached out to one facility who who was not at liberty to speak to the media, an LPN staff member said the insurance companies are also telling them they could not go into lockdown to restrict resident access when an outbreak occurs. “It’s really sad. Our hands are tied” she said.
Manor Care, which is now called Promedica, had some of the best responses to an in-facility outbreak. The facility does weekly testing, and if anyone comes back positive, the facility would go into lockdown, move the individual to quarantine, and they would then run testing on every staff member and resident until all came back with a negative test result. When that happens, the facility would lift the lockdown and resume visitations. In most cases, the lockdown only lasted for two to three days. However, they too are prohibited from going into a lockdown when an outbreak occurs.
According to the most recent data from DPH, as of 6:00 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30, there have been a total of 3,031 positive COVID-19 cases involving long-term care residents, and 876 residents of Delaware long-term care facilities have died from complications related to COVID-19 and the numbers are growing.
As a reminder, the Division of Public Health announced earlier this week that it will implement updated guidance issued Dec. 27, 2021, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to shorten the recommended time that people should isolate or quarantine after testing positive for or being exposed to COVID-19.
The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of COVID-19 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. The updated guidance can be found here.
Additionally, DPH will be refocusing its contact tracing efforts to focus on case investigation and contact tracing in high-risk settings (e.g.: schools, long-term care facilities). During case investigation, epidemiologists will ask persons who are positive for COVID-19 to inform their close contacts of their positive status instead of having epidemiologists and others reach out to all close contacts. This change is due to increasing case numbers to investigate and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, necessitating a need for DPH to prioritize its personnel and resources on preventing spread among those at highest risk.
During the next few weeks, DPH also asks for the public’s patience with case investigators and contact tracers. Because it will take time for DPH to update its computer-based systems with the new guidance, contact tracers will advise individuals that the standard script they read will be based on the previous isolation and quarantine guidance, but let them know next steps for ending isolation and quarantine earlier per the new guidance.
Employers and schools are advised that they can move forward in applying the guidance to their employees and students themselves. Using the new guidance can reduce the impact of illness on a business or school’s workforce. DPH systems may continue to automatically generate clearance letters for individuals who finish their isolation or quarantine period based on previous guidance. At this time, DPH will not be able to issue corrected letters using the newly released guidance. As a reminder, clearance letters are not required by Delaware Division of Public Health to return to work or school. Individuals should consult their employer or school for further guidance.
Influenza cases are continuing to increase in Delaware. There were 126 laboratory-confirmed cases reported the week of Dec. 12 – Dec. 18. As of Dec. 18, 2021, the most recent date for which flu statistics are available, there have been 352 laboratory-confirmed cases for the current season. The cases involved 249 individuals from New Castle County, 40 from Kent County and 63 from Sussex County. This number reflects only the number of lab-confirmed cases; the actual number of cases circulating statewide is likely higher as not all people with the flu seek treatment, and many cases are diagnosed through rapid test kits in a provider’s office versus a lab.
All individuals 6 months and older are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated against the flu if they haven’t already. Flu vaccines are available at pharmacies (including those in grocery stores), participating medical provider offices, Federally Qualified Health Centers (for their patients), as well as Division of Public Health clinics. DPH is also advising the public that the flu vaccine can be administered at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine.