WILMINGTON — The number of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 in Delaware went above 600 for the first time on Tuesday as the Delaware National Guard prepares to help alleviate some of the strain on the state’s health systems.
The Delaware Division of Public Health reported 602 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Tuesday’s update with 72 of those cases considered critical. New Castle County (363) and Sussex County (146) are experiencing record number of patients hospitalized with the virus while Kent County is at 93, short of its record of 112.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased by more than 100 in the last three days and by more than 200 in the last 10. The state has set an all-time high each of the last five days. All hospital data via DPH is as of Monday at 6 p.m.
Approximately 100 members of the Delaware National Guard are being trained to become certified nursing assistants. The Guard members will work as CNAs in skilled nursing facilities, such as nursing homes and long-term care centers, caring for patients who aren’t critically ill but who can’t be discharged.
This will allow hospitals to move some of their patients into these skilled nursing facilities to open up more beds, Gov. John Carney said at the state’s COVID-19 press briefing Tuesday.
“What the hospitals have asked us for is exactly what we’re providing, which is resources to help them decompress,” Gov. Carney said. “Meaning move patients out who don’t belong in the hospital so that they can be in a more appropriate setting. Those settings are stressed with not having workers to provide whatever care that is at that level. So we are engaging in this training process of 100 National Guard men and women to fulfill that role so we can move those patients who don’t need to be in the hospital into these other settings.”
Delaware hospitals typically see a surge in the winter due to flu season, said Delaware Emergency Management Agency director A.J. Schall. But this winter has been different due to staffing challenges caused by so many staff needing to quarantine or isolate.
The addition of the Guard members should aid hospitals and skilled nursing facilities sighting staff shortages.
“We don’t need the space, we need the bodies,” Mr. Schall said. “Usually you don’t get your staff hit with 30% positivity rates — those workers are out for a week or so and then others go out. The staffing situation is so dynamic that we have to get it under control. We can only deal with this stress for so long before stuff starts to crumble.”
Mr. Schall added Delaware’s already overcrowded emergency rooms have seen unnecessary traffic from patients seeking COVID-19 testing. The state asked Delawareans only use the emergency department for serious illnesses or injuries, Those looking for COVID-19 testing should go to a testing site which can be found at either Curative.com or de.gov/gettested.
“Those are the people we need to keep out of the hospital and let the emergency department and its staff concentrate on the people who are injured and ill,” Mr. Schall said.
The state continued to encourage vaccination as the best protection against being hospitalized with COVID-19. More than 70% of Delaware’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are from individuals not fully vaccinated, according to DPH.