State of emergency takes effect in Del. over coronavirus

A state of emergency took effect in Delaware on Friday because of the new coronavirus as Gov. John Carney also ordered all public schools in the state to be closed for the next two weeks.

In a news release Friday evening, Carney directed public schools to be closed through March 27. He said officials should have schools thoroughly cleaned during that time.

FULL COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS

Carney had declared a state of emergency Thursday, which makes it easier for state agencies to coordinate and mobilize state resources in response to the virus. It also prohibits price gouging and encourages the cancellation of “nonessential” public gatherings of 100 people or more, giving state officials authority to cancel such gathering for public health reasons. Businesses and state offices remain open.

The emergency declaration also bans out-of-state travel for state employees and allows state agencies to conduct public meetings electronically. State lawmakers had already postponed next week’s legislative session.

“We will continue to respond aggressively to this situation in close coordination with state and federal public health experts,” Carney said in a prepared statement.


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Delaware Gov. John Carney (Office of Gov. John Carney)

Meanwhile, state public health officials are providing less information, not more, about the coronavirus situation in Delaware.

The Division of Public Health’s coronavirus website had previously included a county-by-county breakdown of “people under investigation,” meaning they had been tested but the results had not been received. Officials are now providing county-specific lists only of the number of positive test results.

Officials also failed to list three new cases of coronavirus as being under investigation before announcing Thursday that test results had come back positive. Those cases involve two graduate students and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Delaware who had close contact at a social event last month with a faculty member who became Delaware’s first positive coronavirus case on Wednesday.

State officials knew of the first positive case by Wednesday morning but did not publicly announce it until late Wednesday afternoon, after arranging a news conference and alerting members of Delaware’s congressional delegation.

“Out of courtesy, we gave the congressional delegation a few minutes heads-up,” Hofman said in an email Friday.

Hofman said that while public health officials may know of a positive test result, they have to follow certain steps, including letting the individual know, before releasing information to the public. She could not say when officials alerted the individuals at the University of Delaware that they had tested positive.

Asked why the three new UD cases had not been listed as “people under investigation” Hofman said only that “PUIs are constantly in flux as the tests are completed so they were not in the log when the data had been put on the website.”

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