With rising hospitalizations and positive COVID-19 cases 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 a medium level of spread.
The Delaware Division of Public Health announced this change Friday afternoon, and encouraged people to wear masks in “indoor public settings” to help prevent further spread.
Over the past week in Delaware, 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 these patients included at least 16 children under the age of five, representing an increase in the number of kids hospitalized with COVID. They remind Delawareans that vaccines are now available for all persons starting at 6 months old, and vaccination is highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and death.
Another indicator for community spread is the seven-day average of positive cases. In Delaware this week, the public health division was recording a 20% positivity rate in lab-confirmed tests and 523 new positive cases on Friday.
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The state acknowledged that the number of COVID-19 cases in the community is higher than that reported percentage because at-home tests are not included.
This latest spike is largely driven by the BA.5 subvariant of omicron, which is now making up about 82% of new cases as of July 23, according to the CDC.
Delaware public health officials are seeing a similar trend. As of July 5, more than 60% of Delaware’s sequenced test results that were positive for a variant strain of the virus were positive for BA.5, DPH said.
Local and federal health officials agree that the biggest tool protecting people from serious illness or death right now is vaccines and keeping up to date with boosters.
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During the week of July 18 to July 24, DPH reported that 66% of Delaware’s total COVID-19 cases and 75% of its hospitalized persons had not received booster doses.
Dr. Rick Hong, DPH interim director, emphasized that getting a vaccine now will not exclude anyone from getting an enhanced version of the vaccine in the fall.
“It’s in your best interest to get any booster for which you are eligible now and the enhanced vaccine in the fall to ensure the best protection both now, and then,” he said in Friday’s press release.
More advice from DPH on staying safe amid high COVID spread
- Wear a well-fitting mask in indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status.
- Stay home if you are sick and get tested if you have symptoms or were exposed to someone with COVID-19. Visit de.gov/gettested for testing locations.
- Get vaccinated and boosted when you are eligible to provide increased protection against severe illness and hospitalization.
- If you are planning to be around someone at high risk for severe disease, self-test before visiting them and wear a mask when indoors with them.
- Turn to reliable sources for information and treatment options, including de.gov/coronavirus.
- If you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, contact your health care provider to determine if you qualify for any additional precautions or treatments.
Do you qualify for a booster?
Here’s who is eligible for a booster:
- Ages 5+ if it has been 5 months since your second dose of Pfizer.
- Ages 18+ if it has been 5 months since your second dose of Moderna.
- Ages 18+ if it has been 2 months since your initial dose of Johnson & Johnson.
- Those who qualify for an “additional/third” dose of Pfizer or Moderna because they have certain immunocompromising conditions.
People can also get a second booster, or fourth dose, four months after receiving their initial booster if they are over the age of 50 or immunocompromised.
Emily Lytle covers Sussex County from the inland towns to the beaches, with a focus on health-related issues. Got a story she should tell? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 302-332-0370. Follow her on Twitter at @emily3lytle.
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