Three more positive Del. coronavirus cases announced
NEWARK — State officials have announced that three more people at the University of Delaware have tested positive for coronavirus after a faculty member was the state’s first positive case on Wednesday.
The new cases include two UD graduate students and a postdoctoral researcher, all under the age of 30, who had been in close contact with the faculty member at an off-campus February social event. All are reported to not be severely ill and under quarantine, according to state and university officials.
UD President Dennis Assanis said that the university is working closely with the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) to track students, faculty and staff who were in contact with the individuals who have tested positive for coronavirus, and any university spaces that may have been impacted are being disinfected.
“I realize this news may be distressing as the number of cases nationally continues to increase,” he wrote in a Thursday morning statement. “Please know that our leadership team is meeting continually to evaluate this changing situation in order to make decisions that are informed by guidance from state and national health officials. All of our decisions are focused on the health and safety of our campus environment as a top priority. And operationally, we will do everything we can to maintain our students’ academic continuity and progress so that we can return to the daily rhythm of University life as soon as possible.”
The diagnoses are deemed “presumptive positives” because final confirmation from tests at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are still being awaited, officials said. A test in the state made the initial positive diagnosis.
With Delaware confirming its first positive coronavirus cases, the state has been swept into the nation’s wave of concern regarding large public gatherings, which carry a higher risk for transmission of the virus.
The virus known as COVID-19, which has no vaccine, has infected more than 125,000 people worldwide in 111 countries, causing more than 4,700 deaths as of Thursday. Of those, more than 1,200 people have been infected in the U.S. with 37 deaths, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Earlier in March, the CDC advised citizens to “avoid crowds as much as possible” as a way to reduce their risk of contracting coronavirus disease. That has led to the cancellation of large events, such as the South by Southwest Festival in Texas, as well as postponements, like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California. On Wednesday, the National Basketball Association suspended its season amid the concern and the National Hockey League followed suit on Thursday.
That wave of concern began to break in Delaware on Wednesday, when the state announced its first case.
“We’ve been expecting and planning for this for weeks, and we’re ready,” said Gov. John Carney in announcing the first positive case. “We’re taking this extremely seriously because it’s a serious matter, but we are not panicking, and neither should you.”
Carney postponed a public town hall, deciding instead to host a virtual town hall online. On Thursday, the Delaware General Assembly announced that it would not reconvene as scheduled on March 17, instead reassessing weekly beginning March 23 as to when to do so. Earlier in the month, the Court of Chancery announced efforts to hold as many hearings by phone as possible, decreasing the need of groups of people to gather in the courthouse.
Following the confirmation that a University of Delaware faculty member was tested positive for the coronavirus, the university closed March 12 and 13, starting its scheduled spring break early. When courses resume March 23, all learning will be done online for the remainder of the spring semester. While dorms will remain open to students, the university is prohibiting school-sponsored international travel, spectatorship at athletic events and large university events, such as the UDance fundraiser.
On Thursday, Delaware State University followed suit, telling students who were already on spring break to not return to campus until April 5. Coursework will also move online until at least April 3, with spring sports games being held without spectators just as UD advised.
Also in the sports world, UD required the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association to play its annual semifinal and final high school basketball games before empty stands at the Bob Carpenter Center, leading the DIAA to move its tournament’s most high-profile games to home or neutral high school courts to ensure they are played. On Thursday, the DIAA announced that it would play its final games upon crowds limited to legal guardians of players and prohibiting media.
Meanwhile, the Delaware Blue Coats, the NBA G-League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers, has also suspended play of its season. The Blue Coats, which typically play in front of a few thousand fans at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, had two more home games in its 2019-20 season.
Delaware’s private sector employers are also dealing with how to best weather the potential impact of virus that could keep infected employees at home on quarantine for 14 days.
Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, a national law firm with a Wilmington office, shuttered all offices for a day before reopening most after an attendee of a firm event in Washington, D.C., tested positive for the virus. JPMorgan Chase, which employs about 11,500 people in Delaware, has also reportedly been testing its ability for its workforce to work from home if the need arises.
By Jacob Owens