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Delaware to re-enter state of emergency

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Gov. Carney

Gov. John Carney cited the high cases and the struggles Delaware’s hospitals are facing as a reason to grant the state of emergency. | DBT FILE PHOTO

WILMINGTON — With Delaware seeing record-setting COVID-19 cases this week, Gov. John Carney will reinstate the state of emergency order come Monday to allocate manpower at the state’s hospitals.

Carney said the state will mobilize the National Guard to help hospitals as they are struggling against an omicron variant-fueled surge and a workforce shortage pushing many existing nurses and doctors to the brink. Roughly 100 Delaware National Guard members are being trained to become certified nursing assistants.

“I think it’s fair to say the situation in all our hospitals, from northern New Castle County to the Maryland line is dire. Our hospitals are over capacity,” Carney said during a Thursday press conference. “Our emergency departments are being stressed, and part of it is COVID and part of it is people needing hospital treatment.”

Carney is not imposing a statewide indoor mask mandate, as he did last winter as the state braced for an influx of new cases as people gathered to see their families for the Christmas holiday. However, he urged businesses to issue their own indoor mask requirements.

State health officials have pointed to the omicron variant as a direct trigger for skyrocketing capacity in hospitals, with a faster than expected transmission rate. Bayhealth officials reported on Monday that 150 people visited the emergency room that day, possibly setting a record, according to the Delaware State News. 

Beebe Healthcare and ChristianaCare have both warned the situation was dire last week, with ChristianaCare officials announcing that some patients were receiving care in hallways since most beds were filled.

Delaware hospitals report that roughly 60% of patients today are seeking care due to delayed appointments throughout the year, while 40% are COVID-19 patients. The state reports that 454 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 46 of those patients are in the ICU.

The state is averaging 1,072.3 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the last seven days, according to the Division of Public Health’s Wednesday report.

Bayhealth Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Siegelman said that in their facilities in central and southern Delaware the number of COVID patients have gone up by 50% in the last 20 days, and it’s not feasible to continue this trend for the next month.

“One of the things that’s different from last year is that our staff has been at this for two years,” Siegelman said. “They’ve done an incredible job but they’ve been under an incredible amount of stress for the last two years now. It’s very tough and it’s tougher than it was.”

Carney and other health officials urged Delawareans to get vaccinated and receive a booster shot to decrease the chance of dying of COVID-19, as well as wearing a mask indoors, regardless if vaccinated or not.

As the state and the rest of the nation continues to wait for President Joe Biden to deliver on his plan to directly mail rapid tests to those who request it, DPH has announced it would distribute 14,000 tests to community health organizations. 

Delaware has also increased the number of testing appointments at standing sites since the holidays, but demand has led to long waits and struggles to get appointments. 

“It is going to be challenging. The people who run the test sites are struggling with their own employees testing positive,” Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Molly Magarik said. “I know it’s a tough ask but I ask people to be patient. Book in advance but because things are beyond control, we may have appointments canceled and you may be waiting in lines. Everyone is doing the best they can.”

Above all, Magarik urged residents to wear masks if you are celebrating New Year’s Eve indoors with friends and family.

“If you are gathering people indoors during New Year’s and are not wearing a mask, please do so with the expectation that you very likely will test positive for COVID,” she said. “Omicron is everywhere.”


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