Delaware encourages masks, boosters to combat latest COVID surge

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DOVER — With the spread of COVID-19 reaching levels not seen since the tail end of the winter surge, the Delaware Division of Public Health is encouraging, but not requiring, Delawareans to mask up indoors.

“Although there are no Delaware or federal government mask mandates, individuals are encouraged to mask in public indoor areas in Delaware,” the agency said in a statement. “Delawareans are also reminded to get boosted to increase their individual protection against COVID-19. Staying up to date with your vaccinations is the best way to ensure your body is prepared to fight against severe cases of COVID-19.”

Delaware’s seven-day rolling average of new positive COVID-19 cases is up to 574.7 per day — the most since it was 620.6 cases per day on Feb. 3. DPH reported 818 new positives in Friday’s update, which is the highest one-day total since there were 962 new cases on Jan. 28.

All case data is as of Thursday at 6 p.m. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard no longer updates on weekends. The next round of new data will come out Monday.

DPH’s latest hospitalization report has 127 hospitalized with the virus and 13 of those considered critical. Hospitalizations were as high as 155 last Tuesday — the most since 164 were hospitalized on Feb. 15.

Dr. Bill Chasanov, Beebe Healthcare’s chief population health officer, said that mid-May traditionally sees COVID-19 levels rise based on the last two years.

“We saw that back in obviously 2020, 2021 and we’re seeing that in 2022,” Dr. Chasanov said. “We obviously have had holidays a few weeks ago. A lot of people celebrated Easter and Passover. We’ve had spring breaks for schools and colleges. Then also a lot of get-togethers with graduation parties and things of that nature. I think people in general are socializing more and more while things are more open than what we’ve seen also in the past.

“I think it’s a combination, not just one thing,” Dr. Chasanov added. “I think it’s a combination of those things that are leading us all to be more social and be around others more. Hopefully everyone is still making good decisions around their own personal health, but most of the time, people are not wearing masks and we’re not social distancing like we used to.”

New variants, such as omicron, which was responsible for the record-setting winter surge, have also led to the case increase, Dr. Chasanov said.

“Every time that there’s a new variant from what we’ve seen, the vaccine does become a little less effective,” Dr. Chasanov said. “It doesn’t mean the vaccines are ineffective. They just become a little less effective than what we saw when they came out.”

According to DPH data for the week of May 9-15, 71% of COVID-19 hospitalizations occurred in individuals who have not received a booster dose of vaccine — 127 of 179.

DPH encourages individuals to check their eligibility for a booster dose. Those eligible are:

• Are 5 years old and up and it has been five months after a second dose of Pfizer

• Are 18 and up and it has been five months after a second dose of Moderna

• Are 18 and up and it has been two months since an initial dose of Johnson & Johnson

• Qualified for an “additional/fourth” dose of Pfizer or Moderna because of certain immunocompromising conditions or are age 50 and older. The booster (fourth) dose can be done six months after receiving the additional/third dose.

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