First positive coronavirus case in Delaware

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

The state’s first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 has been found in a New Castle County man over 50, associated with the University of Delaware community.

According to a DHSS press release, the man is not severely ill and self-isolated at home as soon as symptoms appeared after he was exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 in another state.

Epidemiologists from the Division of Public Health are working to identify any close contacts who were possibly exposed.

No more information will be released about the individual, DPH said.

“The patient is doing well. We understand that news of a positive case in the state is concerning, but this is something we have been preparing for over the last several weeks,” said DPH Director Karyl Rattay. “DPH is working closely with CDC, hospitals, clinicians, and other medical providers to proactively identify and respond to any possible cases of the coronavirus disease 2019. We will continue to keep the public fully informed as additional information becomes available.”

See the DHSS web page for COVID information here.

Students, faculty and staff who have concerns about potential exposure risks should contact the University of Delaware’s Call Center at 302-831-1188 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

DPH continues to closely monitor the global outbreak of respiratory illness caused by COVID-19 that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. There have been 121,564 cases worldwide, and more than 4,373 deaths. In Delaware, DPH has tested 31 individuals for COVID-19, including the individual who tested positive for the disease. A total of 21 tests returned negative results, and nine persons under investigation are awaiting test results.

Those at elevated risk for developing the disease is based on exposure due to travel to a country with a Level 2 Travel Alert or higher (China, Japan, Iran, Italy or South Korea) in the last 14 days or contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, or older individuals (ages 65 and older) and those with chronic underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are most similar to lower respiratory infections with patients having fever, cough, and shortness of breath. There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection at this time. While in some cases illnesses can be severe and require hospitalization, many individuals infected with COVID-19 recover by resting, drinking plenty of liquids and taking pain, and fever-reducing medications.

Community spread is being detected in a growing number of places, including in the states of California, Washington and New York in the United States. More cases of COVID-19 are expected in the United States in the coming days, including more instances of community spread.

DPH advises older Delawareans and people with severe chronic health conditions to follow guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encouraging them to “avoid crowds as much as possible” to reduce their risk of contracting coronavirus disease.

If you are in the higher-risk groups for getting very sick from COVID-19, the CDC recommends you should:

  • Avoid non-essential travel such as long plane trips and defer all cruise trips worldwide.
  • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated space, as much as possible.
  • When you go out in public, including to doctor appointments or dialysis, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
  • Take everyday precaution to keep space between yourself and others.
  • If an outbreak does occur, stay home as much as possible.
  • Stock up on supplies, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, food and water, and other household items.
  • Have a plan in the event you get sick, including discussing with household members, other relatives, and friends to discuss what you might need.

Older Delawareans, people with severe chronic health conditions and all other members of the public can call the Division of Public Health’s Coronavirus Call Center at 1-866-408-1899 or TTY at 1-800-232-5460 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or email For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to

Delaware is experiencing a particularly serious flu season with 6,000 lab-confirmed cases and 11 deaths statewide, and in addition to getting your flu shot, DPH recommends everyday measures that people can take to prevent the spread of all infections, which would also slow the spread of coronavirus disease:

Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hand. If you use a tissue, dispose of it right away.

Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, including the backs of your hands and under your nails, for 20 seconds. Or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Do not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

Clean commonly used surfaces such as computers, desktops, countertops cabinets, handles and more with disinfectant.

Stay home when you are sick.

If you are healthy, the CDC does not recommend buying or using face masks. You should only wear a mask if a health care provider tells you do so.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms (similar to the common cold) to people being severely ill and dying.

DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For more information, visit

Persons with questions about coronavirus disease are encouraged to call the DPH coronavirus information line at 1-866-408-1899, TTY 1-800-232-5460, or email

Sen. Chris Coons' statement:

I encourage all Delawareans to follow recommended measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as staying home when sick and washing hands frequently. My top priority is protecting the health and safety of Delawareans, and I will continue to work closely with federal, state, and local officials to ensure we have the resources necessary to do that. I am so grateful for the critical work of our local health officials, and I’m committed to doing everything I can at the federal level to combat the spread of this virus.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester's statement:

The best practice for all Delawareans is to continue to follow the recommendations of our public health officials at the CDC and DHSS. Congress has already passed emergency funding to bring additional resources to Delaware and will continue to advance additional legislation in the coming days. I will be working in partnership with the Division of Public Health and the relevant state officials to assess their needs and advocate for them in Washington.

Sen. Tom Carper's statement:

First and foremost, I want to wish the Delaware resident who has tested positive for coronavirus a speedy recovery. I know I speak for the rest of the First State when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones at this time. In light of this news, families in Delaware should know that officials and public health experts in our state have been working diligently and preparing to help keep our communities safe.
I, along with my partners here in Congress – Senator Coons and Congresswoman Blunt Rochester – stand ready to assist Governor Carney to make sure that our state and those who are on the front lines dealing with this virus have the resources they need. For Delaware and the nation to successfully mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, we are going to need an all hands on deck approach.
This is an effort that will continue to require coordination across the federal, state and local level, and it will also require individuals to do their part, too. We all have a role to play, and we all have to do our job to keep ourselves and others safe. It’s important to not panic but to be proactive; make sure to take the common sense steps that can keep you and your family healthy, like washing your hands with soap and water, covering your cough and staying home when you are sick.
I also urge all Delawareans to follow the most up-to-date guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Delaware Health and Social Services, health care providers, and health care professionals.