Delaware County’s November 12 COVID-19 Briefing

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Released: November 12, 2020

Delaware County Council held a press conference and community briefing on November 12 to provide an update on COVID-19.

Council was joined by Chester County Health Department Director, Jeanne Casner; Delaware County Emergency Services Director, Tim Boyce; and Chief Medical Officer of Mercy Catholic Medical Center, Trina Abla during the live update hosted on the County’s website and social media.

“There is an alarming high spike in COVID-19 cases across the county, and even more alarming is the ways in which our county is being impacted,” Delaware County Council Chairman Brian Zidek stated at the beginning of the press conference.

COVID-19 cases in Delaware County have been rising and the county is approaching the highest number of outbreaks since the height of 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.

On Monday, all Delaware County hospitals were forced to divert patients because they had reached capacity and/or did not have enough essential healthcare workers to treat patients. There are more COVID-19 cases, resulting in more people needing to be hospitalized and essential healthcare workers are among those testing positive- resulting in a shortage of essential healthcare workers available to treat patients. Delaware County is seeing spikes in its first responder community as well. 911 dispatchers, police officers, firefighters and EMS workers are experiencing outbreaks.

Essential emergency service and healthcare workers are being strained, and that directly affects the 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.

“It’s time that we all start heeding the advice of public health officials or we face a situation that none of us want to be in,” said Zidek. “For months, there has been clear scientific guidance from public health experts to mitigate the virus. Many individuals, businesses, and organizations have followed that guidance and we commend them. Many businesses have adapted to work under the guidance and we know our schools are going above and beyond to keep their students and staff safe. It hasn’t been easy for them.”

Zidek noted that it’s frustrating to watch responsible business owners and schools follow best practices and work to ensure they are doing everything they can to protect the community and stay open, and then see some members of the community blatantly not regarding the public health guidance. The result is that an alarming high spike in cases in Delaware County.

At the height of the pandemic there were 232 cases a day in Delaware County. This week, the county is nearing that high point and has exceeded 200 new cases several times over the past seven days. 214 new cases were reported on Nov. 11.

“Delaware County is following a national trend but pacing much faster than anticipated going into the winter season,” said Chester County Health Department Director Jeanne Casner.

On Nov. 12, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 5,488 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 248,856. This is the highest daily increase of cases since the pandemic.

There are multiple factors that are attributed to the increase. Public health investigators are linking a majority of cases to social gatherings at homes, people not wearing a mask in public, people returning to in-person work and large events such as weddings and funerals. Some cases are also being linked to children participating in extra-curricular activities.

“We are asking you to take a hard look at the activities you are engaging in and ask yourself if it’s really the responsible thing to do,” said Zidek. “Your decisions affect our first responder community, healthcare workers, and schools and businesses who may be forced to shut down if our numbers continue to rise. 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.”

Council noted that Delaware County schools and businesses have suffered greatly during the pandemic and have worked to implement and follow the public health guidance.

“Our schools and businesses have made significant changes to how they operate and have been doing everything they can to protect students, staff, employees and the community,” said Delaware County Vice Chair Dr. Monica Taylor. “We know it hasn’t been easy and we commend them. We will continue to do everything we can to support them.”

The County has offered public health guidance and support from the Chester County Health Department and financial support from CARES Act funding to businesses and schools across the county.

Delaware County immediately took steps in response to the increase in cases. The County has moved most in-person meetings to virtual. County Executive Director Howard Lazarus has been in communication with Department Directors about plans to reduce in person-staff and move as many County workers into working virtually as possible. All employees and residents visiting County buildings are screened and required to wear a mask and maintain a 6-foot distance, and these practices will obviously continue. County janitorial staff continues to disinfect County buildings, with extra attention to high-traffic areas.

Video of the press conference can be found here:

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Delaware County, presently consisting of over 184 square miles divided into forty-nine municipalities is the oldest settled section of Pennsylvania.

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