- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 28, 2020

DOVER, Del. (AP) - State officials are ramping up coronavirus testing in southern Delaware in the wake of community screenings that indicate widespread COVID-19 infection.

Gov. John Carney on Tuesday described Sussex County as a “hot spot” for coronavirus after testing of more than 750 individuals in community screenings last week found that more than 35% were positive for COVID-19. The screenings did not require a person to have a doctor’s referral or show any symptoms of the disease.

State officials are partnering with area hospitals to expand testing of high-risk populations. They consist of people with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, those living or working with someone who has tested positive, family members or housemates of poultry industry workers, and those with chronic medical conditions.

Officials also plan to increase outreach and education efforts aimed at vulnerable populations in Sussex County. Those efforts will include phone alerts, billboard messages, printed materials and social media.

Carney asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week to assist in community testing and contact tracing efforts. The CDC has sent an epidemiology team to Delaware to help quantify and stem the spread of the disease downstate, officials said.

As of Monday evening, state officials reported more than 4,570 cases of COVID-19, and at least 137 deaths. More than 2,100 cases are in Sussex County, where the number of hospitalizations has tripled in the past two weeks.

The infection rate in Sussex County is more than three times higher than northern Delaware’s New Castle County, which is much more heavily populated. The virus has become particularly prevalent among the Hispanic and Haitian communities and Sussex County’s poultry processing plants, according to public health officials.

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