This week, following the Thanksgiving holiday, Delaware County has seen an extremely high spike in COVID-19 cases across the county, as well as across the entire state. The numbers are alarming, as well as the high number of COVID-19 related deaths.
During the early months of the pandemic, the County’s highest count of COVID-19 cases for a single day was 232. The 7-day incidence rate as of today is 318 per 100,000 and the 7-day PCR positivity rate is 12.7%. To put that into perspective- 30 days ago, on Nov. 6, the incident rate was 149.3 per 100,000 and the 7-day percent positivity was 6.5%.
To date, there have been a total of 21,290 positive cases in the county. There has been a dramatic increase in deaths, bringing the total number of deaths in the county to 873. Delaware County is currently experiencing community spread again.
On Dec. 4, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 11,763 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 398,600. This is the highest daily increase of cases since the pandemic.
The recent spike in cases has resulted in Delaware County hospitals having to divert patients, longer than normal wait times in emergency rooms, and first responders and essential healthcare workers being greatly impacted, affecting their ability to assist, care for and treat residents. Our essential emergency service and healthcare workers are being strained, and that directly affects our entire community. There are fewer 911 operators to take the calls, there are fewer police, fire, and EMS to respond when a patient arrives at the ER they may be diverted to another hospital in another county, and if the ER is open- the patient will likely experience a much longer wait time.
“We are going down a road we feared we may go down earlier this fall- higher numbers, more deaths, and overwhelming our health care systems and first responders,” said Delaware County Council Chairman Brian Zidek.
During its Nov.18 public meeting, Council voted to pass a resolution requesting that Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health enact additional COVID-19 mitigation strategies. The resolution was in response to the alarming spike in COVID-19 cases throughout the county. While the Chester County Health Department has been supporting Delaware County in its COVID-19 response, the County must rely on the Pennsylvania Department of Health to issue orders.
In response to the resolution, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health ordered the following mitigation efforts specific to Delaware County, which went into effect on November 23.
Individuals in bars, restaurants, and other retail food establishments must wear masks except when actually eating or drinking
Bars, restaurants, and other retail food establishments must limit the number of individuals at a table to four
Events or gatherings of more than 10 people indoors are prohibited
The definition of an event and/or gathering is:
A temporary grouping of individuals that takes place over a limited timeframe, such as hours or days. Examples include weddings, indoor private and public parties, festivals, concerts, or shows. It also includes groupings that occur within larger, more permanent businesses, such as shows or performances within amusement parks, individual showings of movies on a single screen or auditorium, and business meetings or conferences.
Groups of people who share a space within a building during the course of operations, such as in an office building, classroom, production floor, or regularly occurring operation of a business or organization, are NOT considered events or gatherings.
Who is and isn’t affected by the new mitigation:
The order applies to funeral homes. Licensed funeral homes should refer to the State Registrar Notices for more information.
The order applies to any venue holding an indoor event such as a wedding, private party, show, etc.
Religious gatherings are NOT affected by the Order. The PA Department of Health continues to encourage places of worship to find alternative ways to hold services, including virtual and outdoors, and to employ social distancing and mask-wearing during services.
The order does NOT apply to classroom settings but does apply to school activities outside of the classroom that are not related to educational instruction.
The order DOES apply to indoor school sports and youth and adult recreational sports. School sports must also comply with district rules and/or local health department restrictions.
Council revisited the guidance as it pertains to sports after receiving feedback that many parents and children would obviously like to play winter sports. Upon re-examining the data and public health guidance, Council and the Chester County Health Department determined that the mitigation put in place was necessary to protect the community and slow the spread of the virus. According to public health experts, the virus spreads more easily indoors person-to-person and therefore any person at an indoor gathering is at a higher risk. Council will not be revising the mitigation.
The order took effect on November 23 and will remain in effect until January 2, 2021. Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania State Police, and individual municipalities are empowered to enforce the amended order as well as all public health orders.
The order pertaining to Delaware County can be found here: https://www.delcopa.gov/pdf/OrderOfTheSecretaryForDelwareCounty.pdf
During the update, Council acknowledged that businesses have been greatly impacted by the pandemic.
“There is no doubt that the increase in cases and colder weather is making it even more difficult for businesses to survive,” said Councilwoman Elaine Paul Schaefer. “There is no way around it- we know you are suffering. The additional mitigation efforts and all public health guidance were put into effect to protect our community and allow businesses to stay open. None of want to be moved back into the Red Phase.”
Council commended the business community who have worked to implement and follow the public health guidance. They have made significant changes to how they operate and have been doing everything they can to protect students, staff, employees, and the community. The County continues to support the business community, including offering public health guidance and support from the Chester County Health Department, financial support from CARES Act funding, and encouraging the safe support of local businesses.
“To the residents who aren’t following the guidance, please don’t jeopardize our businesses and possibly schools staying open,” said Schaefer. “Please don’t put a strain on our essential healthcare workers and first responders. And please don’t put our community at risk. We are urging you to do the right thing. Have personal responsibility. Think about our community as a whole- and not just yourself.”
Residents are urged to take a hard look at the activities they are engaging in and ask themselves if it’s really the responsible thing to do. Our decisions affect our whole community. We all need to do the right thing. This doesn’t work if 50% are being responsible and the other 50 % are going about their lives as though we’re not in the midst of a pandemic.
COVID- 19 Testing:
Being tested if you have symptoms and/or were exposed to someone who tested positive is important to slow the spread of the virus. Public Health experts recommend being testing immediately if you are showing COVID-19 symptoms and on day 7 of being exposed to a positive person if you ARE NOT showing symptoms. The timing is important. Being tested too early may result is a false negative because there is not enough of a viral load to be detected. Public health experts also recommend a PCR test, which are the most effective.
Delaware County is continuing to offer drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing at the US Army Reserve next week in Upland. Testing is available for insured and uninsured people 12 years of age or older who have COVID-19 symptoms, were exposed to COVID-19, or are considered critical/essential workers. COVID-19 testing is available for individuals who live or work in Delaware County.
Testing will also be held at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. Individuals must pre-register to receive a test at both locations. A link to register and the dates and hours for testing can be found here: www.delcopa.gov/ich/resources/covid19/testing.html