Party fowl

Signs on the University of Delaware campus remind students to abide by the city’s strict limits on private gatherings.

The number of coronavirus cases is continuing to rise at the University of Delaware.

On Thursday, UD reported 18 new cases, all of which were students. That came one day after the university reported its highest-ever total of 22, including 21 students and one employee.

In total, UD has seen 92 cases since Aug. 31, when it began reporting daily numbers. The tally includes students and employees who have physically been on campus in the days leading up to testing positive as well as students living in off-campus housing within downtown Newark.

Another 57 tested positive before coming to campus and were told to stay home.

UD has not released information about the severity of the cases.

On Tuesday, Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said Newark is “an area of concern” due to the increasing number of coronavirus cases.

After controlling an initial outbreak in March tied to a UD professor who visited New Jersey, Newark saw a lower rate of infection that many other areas of Delaware throughout the spring and summer. By mid-August, the average number of new cases per day here was less than one. Now, thanks to the recent spike at UD, the average number of daily new cases is 6.3.

Since the pandemic began, the city has seen 281 people test positive. There have been 11 coronavirus-related deaths in Newark, mostly tied to nursing homes, and none since May.

Gov. John Carney said most of the recent cases in Newark can be tied back to “unstructured, out-of-classroom, off-campus activities,” such as house parties.

“People get together, alcohol is involved, people are having a lot of fun. They don't want to think about necessarily wearing a mask and keeping social distanced – in fact, just the opposite,” Carney said. “We know the focus of these outbreaks is in a young adult demographic not so worried about coming down with COVID-19 or the risk they pose in the community if they do, and having a sense of invincibility.”

Complicating efforts is UD students’ reluctance to cooperate with contact tracers from DPH. Rattay noted that contact tracing is done by state health workers, not UD officials, and emphasized that students who test positive should not fear getting in trouble if they report who they were in contact with.

“This information is critically important for the work we're doing, and we're having a tough time getting responses from some of the UD students,” she said. “People have a fear of consequences. I want to re-emphasize. We are not out to get anyone. We need information to stop the spread of this infection.”

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