Party fowl

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

The University of Delaware’s coronavirus outbreak continued to worsen last week, as the university set a new record for number of cases for the second week in a row.

UD saw a total of 113 cases last week, including 109 students and four employees, according to statistics released Monday. That surpasses the previous week’s 88 cases.

After seeing dozens of cases each week throughout September, UD appeared to have gotten a handle on the outbreak until Halloween weekend, when there were a number of large parties in violation of the city’s social gathering ordinance. That triggered a new round of infections.

“Unfortunately, yes, this spike is directly related to gatherings associated with Halloween,” UD spokeswoman Andrea Boyle Tippett said earlier this month.

As has been planned for months, UD classes will all be online after the Thanksgiving break. However, the dorms – which are operating at reduced capacity – will remain open to students until the end of the fall semester on Dec. 18. After that, no students will be on campus until February, except for extenuating circumstances. Winter session classes will be online only.

Newark is seeing its daily case rate rise, as well. Much of that is due to the cases tied to UD, though state health officials have said they are seeing an increase in cases among non-students as well.

On Sunday, the city surpassed 1,000 cases since the pandemic began – more than 75 percent of which have come since students returned in late August. Newark is averaging 16 new cases per day – the second-worst spike this year.

Last week, officials reported the first coronavirus-related death in Newark since the spring, bringing the city’s total up to 12 deaths. No details about the deceased were released.

The spike in Newark mirrors what is happening statewide. Delaware is seeing an average of 326 new cases per day, up from just 70 in mid August. There are 141 people currently hospitalized, and seven Delawareans have died from coronavirus in the last week.

Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, urged people to double down on their precautions. She said Delawareans should only dine (at home or at a restaurant) with people they live with, avoid socializing with people outside their household and refrain from gathering with family and friends for Thanksgiving.

“What we can see in our data is that social gatherings, whether at a house party, casual dinner, or restaurant, where people take off their masks while they eat, drink and chat, are the primary situations in which COVID-19 is being spread,” Rattay said. “It is just not safe right now to socially eat, drink, casually hang out or party with people outside of our household unless we are socially distanced and outside.”

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