WILMINGTON — Public health officials warned Delawareans against attending large, indoor gatherings for New Year’s Eve celebrations amid the state’s surging COVID-19 infection rates.
The state set a record Thursday with 1,991 new cases of the virus reported by the Delaware Division of Public Health. That broke the previous all-time mark by nearly 400 cases and should go even higher over the coming days, as DPH needs more time to process the reported results into its database due to the large volume of lab results received this week. All case statistics via DPH reflect data as of Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Delaware is averaging 1,193.6 new positive COVID-19 cases per day over the last week due to a surge in the virus spurred on by the delta variant and the newer, highly transmissible omicron variant.
“If you are gathering indoors right now, somebody COVID-positive is in there gathering with you and omicron is so infectious that you will likely become positive,” said Molly Magarik, secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. “Please, if you go out on New Year’s, please do so with the understanding and expectation you very likely will test positive for COVID in the next few days after.”
“I’m not saying you’re going to be severely hospitalized, that depends on a lot of factors,” Ms. Magarik added. “But it is everywhere. With the omicron variant, you can see in cases from surrounding states, we’re hitting record totals. We’re going to hit another record total of cases today. Omicron is everywhere.”
State officials pleaded with those who are planning to get together for New Year’s Eve to wear masks, hold gatherings outside when possible and ensure all guests are vaccinated against the virus.
“You’ll likely have an uninvited guest at your New Year’s party and it’s someone who is maybe asymptomatic and is positive with either delta or omicron,” Gov. John Carney said. “So you’ve got to be careful that you’re not bringing it into your party or the restaurant you’re going to and you’re protected from somebody else who is carrying.”
The state saw an influx in demand for COVID-19 testing after Christmas, doing about 13,000 tests on Monday alone. For comparison purposes, Ms. Magarik said the state was averaging around 1,000 tests per day in June.
“It’s the hottest commodity right now,” Ms. Magarik said.
Testing appointments filled up throughout Delaware as long lines wrapped around parking lots at some of DPH’s pop-up community testing sites.
For those looking to get tested next week, officials urged Delawareans to make appointments in advance. A list of testing sites can be found at de.gov/gettested and Curative.com.
Ms. Magarik warned Delawareans they might be waiting in long lines and some appointments might be canceled due to supply challenges. She said testing site workers are “doing the best they can,” and added they have experienced belligerence and violence this week.
“I don’t want to sugarcoat it,” she said. “Demand is outstripping supply. It has been a really difficult week. When everyone in the state wants something at the same time, even the best plans and resource management cannot keep pace. We hope demand will settle back down, but it may be a bumpy next week or so as people continue to want to get tested.”
DPH also issued a reminder to not go to an ER for a test as all hospitals in the state saw record volume in their emergency departments this week. The state is closing in on its Jan. 12 record for COVID-19 hospitalizations of 474 after DPH reported 458 hospitalized in Thursday’s update.
Dr. Ellie Salinski, assistant medical director of emergency services at Bayhealth’s Kent Campus, asked for patience and understanding from those who are seeking care at hospitals. She said the staff has dealt with numerous interruptions due to frustrated patients.
“We did have a patient who was extremely violent within a few feet of myself, and I did unfortunately watch one of the staff members get physically assaulted,” Dr. Salinski said. “Thankfully, security was able to come and intervene. These are the types of things that we’re seeing. It amazes me that that person who was assaulted came back to work the next day and seemed to actually have empathy for that patient.”
“We’re all doing the absolute best that we can, and we’ve pushed past limits that we didn’t even realize that we could surpass,” she added. “We’re all extended beyond what we ever expected, and we’re trying the best that we can. We just ask that the community understand this. Just try to be patient, try to be kind and a simple ‘Thank you’ just goes a long way.”