Tuesday’s Covid-19 briefing kicked off with a video of weary front-line health care staff discussing the severity of the virus and its effect on hospitals.
“We are at a critical point,” Gov. John Carney said later in the briefing.
Hospitals in the state are now running at 117 percent of capacity and have implemented crisis standards of care.
Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said, “we need to dispel the myth” that Omicron is a mild form of Covid-19. While many people get mild cases, others face a tough fight with the virus, she said. She went on to note an uptick in child hospitalizations.
Carney’s statewide mask mandate
On Monday, Carney went a step beyond governors’ actions in neighboring states and ordered mask-wearing in nearly all indoor public spaces, the one exception being churches. Lawsuits contesting masks mandates in houses of worship have been filed here and elsewhere.
The governor said adjoining states without mask mandates appear to be in a “little different place” in terms of hospital capacity.
The governor, in response to a reporter’s question on why he waited until Monday to order a mask mandate, said he had been hopeful that more businesses would voluntarily mandate masks for customers and staff. More individuals would resume wearing the coverings. The mask mandate went into effect on Tuesday.
“I don’t want the mask mandate a day longer than necessary,” Carney said. However, the governor acknowledged that pushback will take place.
The response was immediate on social media, with arguments ranging from restrictions trampling on personal freedom to often discredited claims that masks are not effective.
According to the governor, the state’s hospitals now have 734 patients testing positive for Covid, up sharply from the 474 during the previous winter surge.
The pressure on hospitals is far greater than during the previous winter surge, due to business restrictions, people putting off treatment for other conditions, and fewer traffic accidents at this time a year ago. Serious flu casSeverealso a factor.
“We are seeing the effects of Omicron spread and holiday gatherings,” said Division of Public Health Director Rattay. Omicron showed up in 78% of samples as of late December.
Getting the right mask
Rattay continued to emphasize the fast-spreading nature of Omicron and the need for multiple layer masks. The KN95 mask is recommended, although consumers have to be wary of counterfeits not endorsed by the FDA.
Dr. Ken Silverstein, ChristianaCare’s chief physician executive, said at the briefing that hospitals are in a perilous spot.
Crisis standards of care are issued when hospitals can no longer provide a standard level of care and must take other steps. For example, it can mean that patients with less severe cases may not receive pills at a scheduled time or may see late delivery of meals
Silverstein said effective Covid treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, are now in short supply, due to t the surge in cases.
The treatments were widely available before the recent surge.