Gov. Carney

Delaware Governor John Carney (file)

Delaware's coronavirus count keeps climbing. Tuesday, the state surpassed a milestone that no one wanted to reach--more than 100 cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. 

"It's getting worse...and we know that it's even worse than that because tests are in the process of being determined; they're in the lab, so there's people who've been tested, we don't have the results back," said Governor John Carney in an interview on WDEL's Rick Jensen Show.

Plus, Carney admits, we haven't done the kind of extensive testing needed to know exactly where the state stands.

"So there are a lot more people that are positive out there than we know, based on the numbers," he said.

As of noontime Wednesday, March 25, 2020, Delaware has 115 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Seventy-eight cases in New Castle County; thirteen cases in Kent County, and 24 cases in Sussex County.  Among those, 11 persons were hospitalized and five are critically ill.  

WDEL has been getting a lot of questions about how many people have been tested for COVID-19 -- relative to the spike in the cases. The Delaware Department of Public Health said it doesn't have an accurate number to give, at this time, due to reporting delays, but hopes that will change soon.

"We absolutely understand the interest in knowing the number people who have been tested in Delaware, the number negative test results received, as well as the number of positives. We have had some issues with getting test results back that included negative results. We are currently working through those issues and we anticipate being able to release those to the public in the near future. We need to be confident that the numbers reported are accurate, but due to the delay in reporting we are not at a point to release those now," said Stacey Hofmann, in the DPH Joint Information Center.

Currently, Carney said hospitals in Delaware aren't overwhelmed, but that could change quickly.

"If the spread increases--and it will--it will increase exponentially, meaning that it will multiply up quickly, and so we can go from 90 to over 1,000 or 3,000 pretty quickly, based on the infection rate."

Carney said this is why his stay-at-home order and practicing social distancing during essential activities and work is so important right now to prevent a devastating situation like what's seen in New York City, where officials have said hospitals are nearing capacity.

"They have limited hospital capacity, limited ventilators for those that are sick, and they're going to be facing to have some very difficult decisions," said Carney. "I don't want to get there."

The governor said one person who tests positive for COVID-19 has the possibility of transferring the highly contagious respiratory illness to five persons.

"It accelerates dramatically, unless you reduce that infection rate from five to two or one," he said. "The whole goal is to preserve your hospital capacity, to treat those who are most vulnerable, and as it turns out, those are folks with compromised health conditions with cardiovascular disease, and lung disease, and our senior citizens." 

"That's why the focus [is] on 'stay at home,' that's why the focus [is] on 'pain up front,'" he said.

Carney said Tuesday he spoke to Dr. Janice E. Nevin, president and CEO of the ChristianaCare Health System,  which is on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"They have been moving people out of the hospitals who don't need to be there; they've put off certain elective surgeries to, again, open up capacity. They're making sure that their health care professionals have protective gear," he said. "They're focused on the here-and-now, not so much on vaccines and treatments."

He added there will be enforcement of stay-at-home orders in a "community-spirited sort of way" that breaks up any gatherings of 10 persons or more. He's limited those opportunities, too, by shutting down beaches, movie theaters, bowling alleys, playground equipment, campgrounds, bars and restaurants for dining in, and non-essential businesses.  

"I'll forever be known as the governor that canceled St. Patrick's Day...but people were just completely oblivious to kind of the situation, and it is a very, very serious situation." 

But no official paperwork is needed, at this time, to be on the road, if you're considered "essential" personnel.

"We all need to do our part. Stay home. Practice social distancing. think about others, your actions affect others and their actions affect you. If we all do the things that are necessary, we can slow the spread, an ultimately get through this thing. But we need to pull together and do the right thing."