Delaware health officials point fingers at college crowd after a COVID-19 uptick

WILMINGTON, Del. (KYW Newsradio) — Back to college means back to parties for many young adults. And in Delaware, that's becoming a major concern according to health officials.

There's been a recent uptick in coronavirus cases in the state. Gov. John Carney is looking at college students as a big reason why.

"We know where the challenges are," he said. "They're increasingly in unstructured environments — house parties — not so much in bars and restaurants, we're doing a much better job there."

Carney thinks these parties are a problem because alcohol is usually involved and when people drink, especially young people, he believes safety protocols like wearing a mask and staying 6 feet apart are often ignored.

"(They're) not so worried about coming down with COVID-19 or the risk that they pose to others in the community if they do and having a sense of invincibilty," he elaborated.

Delaware's Director of the Division of Public Health Dr. Karryl Rattay said there's no single point of exposure when it comes to coronavirus cases among the college crowd.

"But a number of these young adults are either in group living situations or are involved in off-campus social activities," she said.

Rattay said students, particularly those at the University of Delaware, also don't seem to be responding to DPH contact tracing calls. 

"We think part of it may be, what we hear from them is they think UD may be doing the contact tracing," she said, "so we want to reiterate from DPH contact tracing, please pick up the phone. This is critically important."

She also believes these contact tracing calls are being ignored because students think they'll be in trouble if they admit they were out partying.

"People have a fear of consequences," added Rattay, "and I want to re-emphasize, we are not out to get anyone. We need information to stop the spread of this infection and that's what we're doing through these case investigations."

Delaware's most recent coronavirus statistics show the seven-day average for the percentage of persons who tested positive for COVID-19 increased from 4.6% right before Labor Day to 5.8% at the start of this weekend.