What you need to know about the coronavirus in Delaware
Until a week ago, Delaware was one of the few states without a case of the novel coronavirus. Now, as of March 22, there are 56 known cases in the state. Public schools have shut down, grocery stores are being stripped of their toilet paper supply and drive-through testing clinics have begun operation. .
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a coronavirus is a respiratory illness. The virus causing the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is different from the virus causing other coronaviruses, which are characterized by mild illnesses such as the common cold.
The World Health Organization lists Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome as other coronaviruses. Originally these viruses were transmitted from animals-to-humans, but eventually began to spread from human to human.
Because this strain of coronavirus is new, the knowledge surrounding it is constantly evolving.
Coronavirus can spread from person-to-person; therefore, it comes down to the actions of individuals to limit its spread. For an individual to act appropriately, they must be aware of the virus and precautionary measures that should be taken to stop it from spreading.
The coronavirus can spread between people within six feet of each other through respiratory droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes. It is also possible for coronavirus to spread through contact with surfaces on which it is present followed by contact to the face.
According to Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH), most individuals who have been tested in Delaware have tested negative. Those who have tested positive have been promptly put under investigation of their contacts and of recent locations they visited.
As of March 15, seven confirmed cases have been people associated with the university. As of March 22, there were 39 total cases in New Castle County, which is the home of the university.
Coronavirus is not yet community-spread in Delaware, meaning that people have not started to contract it without knowing where they got it.
“My guess is that in a week that’s going to look different,” Rattay said. “The presence of the virus is evolving in our state.”
According to Rattay, government officials are learning that children are significantly less impacted by the virus than previously thought. Officials have also learned that those over 60 with chronic underlying health conditions are more at risk.
There are, however, still many unknowns about the coronavirus and Rattay acknowledged that the advice the DPH and the CDC give today may be different from advice they give as public health officials learn more.
Rattay characterized communication between the CDC and the DPH as “constant.” She also talked about days where officials in the DPH had hours of calls with the CDC to focus on different aspects of the issue. The CDC often brings states together in calls to coordinate responses and provides expertise to the DPH when there are questions about a case that should be tested.
The symptoms of the novel coronavirus are fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms typically appear two to 14 days after exposure.
Currently, there is no vaccine for the novel coronavirus. The CDC stated on their website that the best option for containment is to stop transmission.
The CDC encourages individuals to wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing or being in a public place. If soap and water are not available, the CDC recommends the use of hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
To protect others, the CDC urges people to stay home if they feel sick, to cover coughs and sneezes, to wear a facemask if sick and to disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Rattay also said spreading awareness about coronavirus is key. The DPH is currently trying to do so through Facebook Live, press releases, its information line and through its website, which is listed below.
“We are really trying to push that message out there because it is what will make the most difference for us to be able to keep people safe,” Rattay said.
Rattay is concerned about the strains the virus will put on Delaware’s healthcare resources.
Currently, most of that strain is coming from people demanding testing even if they are not demonstrating the appropriate symptoms.
“What we hear from the healthcare provider community right now is that they have a lot of patients in primary care or in emergency departments who are asking to be tested and many of these individuals can’t be tested or don’t need to be tested,” Rattay said.
Rattay also expressed concerns surrounding the wellness of hospital workforces. If healthcare providers get sick, they will not be able to come to work. She also mentioned limited bed space as a problem.
School closures also pose a threat to the healthcare industry in its ability to deal with the virus.
“We even worry about schools closing,” Rattay said before Gov. John Carney officially closed all public schools in the state. “If schools close, that even has an impact on the healthcare workforce because many people in the healthcare workforce have kids in schools and they won’t be able to go to work.”
As coronavirus continues to disrupt people’s personal lives, the CDC promotes destigmatization.
According to its website, “fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma toward people, places, or things.”
The CDC emphasizes the importance of staying informed as a way to combat these stigmas.
For more information about the novel coronavirus, visit:
https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus and https://de.gov/coronavirus or call the Delaware Division of Public Health at 1-866-408-1899.