With hospitalizations and positive COVID-19 cases on the rise this week, all three counties in Delaware have reached a high level of community spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New Castle and Sussex counties were previously listed as medium level of prevalence.
The Delaware Department of Public Health announced the change Friday afternoon, encouraging people to wear masks in “indoor public spaces” to help prevent the spread of the disease.
Over the past week in Delaware, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations rose 22% from 129 to 165, with 12 patients in critical condition as of Friday, according to DPH.
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Public health officials said those patients included at least 16 children under the age of five, which represents an increase in the number of children hospitalized with COVID. They remind the state of Delaware that vaccines are now available to all people from 6 months of age, and that vaccination is highly effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
Another indicator of community spread is the seven-day average of positive cases. In Delaware this week, the Department of Public Health was reporting a 20% positivity rate in lab-confirmed tests and 523 new positive cases Friday.
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The state has acknowledged that the number of COVID-19 cases in the community is higher than that reported because home tests are not included.
This latest rise was largely driven by the BA.5 variant of the omicron, which now makes up about 82% of new cases as of July 23, according to the CDC.
Delaware public health officials see a similar trend. As of July 5, more than 60% of serial Delaware test results that tested positive for a different strain of the virus were positive for BA.5, according to DPH.
Local and federal health officials agree that the biggest tool to protect people from serious illness or death right now is vaccinations and keeping up with boosters.
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During the week of July 18 through July 24, the Department of Public Health reported that 66% of all COVID-19 cases in Delaware and 75% of people hospitalized did not receive booster doses.
Dr. Rick Hong, interim director of the DPH, emphasized that getting a vaccine now would not exclude anyone from getting an improved version of the vaccine in the fall.
“It is in your best interest to have any booster you are eligible for now and the booster vaccine in the fall to ensure the best protection now and then,” he said in a news release Friday.
More advice from the Department of Public Health on staying safe amid the high spread of COVID
- Wear an appropriate mask in indoor public places, regardless of vaccination status.
- Stay home if you are sick and get tested if you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Visit de.gov/gettested for testing locations.
- Get vaccinated and boosted when you qualify to further protect against severe illness and hospitalization.
- If you plan to be near someone who is at high risk of developing severe illness, test yourself before visiting and wear a mask when you are indoors with them.
- Go to reliable sources of information and treatment options, including de.gov/coronavirus.
- If you are immunocompromised or at high risk of developing severe disease, contact your healthcare provider to determine if you qualify for any additional precautions or treatments.
Are you eligible for a booster?
Here’s who qualifies for a booster dose:
- Ages 5+ if it has been 5 months since the second dose of Pfizer.
- Age 18+ if it has been 5 months since the second dose of Moderna.
- Age 18+ if it has been 2 months since your initial dose of Johnson & Johnson.
- Those who qualify for an “extra/third” dose of Pfizer or Moderna because they have certain immune conditions.
People can also get a second booster dose, or a fourth dose, four months after receiving the initial booster if they are over age 50 or immunocompromised.
Emily Little covers Sussex from inland towns to beaches, with a focus on health-related issues. Do you have a story to tell? Contact her at [email protected] or 302-332-0370. Follow her on Twitter @emily3lytle.