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As COVID-19 keeps surging, Delawareans grow frustrated with another hit to the economy

Brandon Holveck Sarah Gamard
Delaware News Journal

The fall surge in COVID-19 cases and the subsequent economic impact has left many residents frustrated at the idea of more restrictions to daily life, but the virus spread has so far shown no sign of slowing.

Delaware on Monday reported 362 new cases, the fewest since Nov. 17. The rolling seven-day average for new cases is at its second-highest point ever after falling from 434 on Sunday to 428.1, according to the state's latest figures.

There are 178 people hospitalized in Delaware, the most since May 28. That figure has increased by 41% over the past two weeks.

Delaware on Monday also reported four new deaths, raising the state's death toll to 752. 

People line up outside of Newark Emergency Center for free rapid COVID-19 testing during a 48-hour continuous testing event Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, in Newark.

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, Delaware is administering a record number of tests. Over the week ending Nov. 20, the state has reported 47,082 tests or 6,726 per day – the most since the pandemic began.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: COVID-19 testing in Delaware hits record heights ahead of Thanksgiving week

The increase in cases, however, isn't solely attributable to the bump in testing. The percent of tests that were positive as of Nov. 20 is 5.6%, which is roughly where it was in early June.

If the case increase were solely due to the increase in testing, that figure would be falling and likely relatively low. It's hovered between 5% and 5.9% over the past week.

The percent of tests that are positive is one of three metrics the state is using to determine the status of schools. If the percent of tests that are positive passes 8%, schools will move to a remote format, according to the state's guidance.

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Gov. John Carney's new coronavirus restrictions, which limit private gatherings to 10 people and cap restaurants at 30% indoor capacity, went into effect at 8 a.m. Monday.

State health officials are concerned about the virus' spread worsening around the Thanksgiving holiday when people typically travel to celebrate with family and friends.

Governor John Carney speaks during his weekly press conference on the state of COVID-19 in Delaware Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, at the Carvel State Building in Wilmington.

They identified private, "unstructured" gatherings and restaurants as places where spread is occurring through conversations contact tracers have had with people who test positive.

In only 27% of positive cases since June 27 have contact tracers been able to identify exposure to another case.

EXPLAINING THE SPREAD: 6 pressing questions you need answered as COVID-19 cases surge in Delaware

While the state is not shutting down the way it did in the spring, recent government actions have drawn protests from multiple groups.

That includes a group called the Delaware Poor People’s Campaign, which on Monday afternoon caravanned outside Legislative Hall in Dover in coordination with nationwide protests.

Demonstrators with the Delaware Poor People's Campaign drove around Legislative Hall and honked their horns on Monday, Nov. 23 as part of a multi-state call for Congress to pass another stimulus package.

A couple dozen demonstrators met in the Dover Public Library parking lot and stuck signs to their cars with slogans such as “Fight poverty not the poor” and “Stand up & fight for a full & just stimulus relief package.”

They later drove to Legislative Hall and repeatedly circled the building, honking their horns. State lawmakers won’t be back in that building until January, when session starts.

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Charito Calvachi-Mateyko, an organizer with the Delaware Poor People’s Campaign and the co-chair of the Delaware Hispanic Commission, said lawmakers need to pass more legislation and roll out financial aid during the crisis.

"I know he (Carney) is doing the very best, but our expectations at this time of crisis are very high," she said. 

Charito Calvachi-Mateyko, an organizer with the Delaware Poor People’s Campaign, speaks to a small crowd of demonstrators on Monday, Nov. 23 outside the Dover Public Library.

The Poor People’s Campaign organized similar caravans in 23 other states and the District of Columbia. The group argues that millions of poor and low-income families across the country face mounting bills, evictions and hunger after months of unemployment, pay cuts and the federal government’s failure to pass another COVID-19 relief package during more than eight months of a pandemic-induced economic downturn.

President-Elect Joe Biden last week called for Congress to pass a relief package that is similar to the $3 trillion coronavirus bill that the U.S. House of Representatives passed in the spring. U.S. House and Senate leaders are said to be working on a compromise as Republicans push for a less expensive version of Democrats’ wish for a $2 trillion package.

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In Delaware, more grants are on the way for the businesses that are going to take a hit under Carney’s latest coronavirus restrictions. The state is providing up to $25 million in additional relief for hundreds of businesses that have been disproportionately impacted by these decisions. Those businesses, including restaurants and bars, will get double their original grant allocation.

Vehicles line up outside of Frawley Stadium for free COVID-19 testing Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, in Wilmington.

On Sunday, a much different crowd of demonstrators joined on the same lawn in front of Legislative Hall to protest Carney’s restrictions, demanding businesses and schools to fully reopen for the sake of Delaware residents’ financial and mental wellbeing.

One of the speakers at Sunday’s rally, Lisa McCulley, organized a similar rally in May in the same spot, where protesters demanded Carney lift business and beach closure orders, as well as the state’s mask mandate that is still in place and considered by public health officials to be the most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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Sunday’s anti-restriction rally-goers pointed to the devastating effect that shutdown orders could have on businesses and people’s mental health — both of which have already suffered since the spring.

People check-in for free COVID-19 testing Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington.

“There are a massive amount of addictions, depression and I have no idea how many suicides,” said former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rob Arlett, who attended yesterday’s rally, in an interview with Delaware Online/The News Journal on Monday. “There’s so many other pieces of the puzzle other than just the virus. What are the implications to his (Carney’s) decisions? And that’s the part that I believe he’s just totally out of touch.”

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Carney has consistently said he is basing his pandemic-era decisions on science and the recommendations of public health officials.

During an October debate against his unsuccessful Republican opponent for the general election, Carney said that an economic shutdown similar to the one his administration implemented earlier this year – which forced many businesses deemed non-essential to shut their doors – would not be sustainable for the state.

Contact Brandon Holveck at bholveck@delawareonline.com. Follow him on Twitter @holveck_brandon. Contact Sarah Gamard at (302) 324-2281 or sgamard@delawareonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.