At least three teenagers who were together in one residence during senior week in Dewey Beach have tested positive for Covid-19, causing state health officials to call for widespread testing of any students who may have participated in other senior week activities.
The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) says the three students were among more than a dozen who were living in a rental unit celebrating the end of the school year.
While there, the teens attended “several crowded gatherings in Rehoboth,” potentially exposing as many as a hundred or more to the virus, said a spokesperson with DPH.
DPH added that there were “several positive cases” among teens living in a rental unit in the Delaware beach area.
Concerns about mass spread of infection among teens
Concerned about the possible mass spread of infection to other students, DPH is encouraging parents of any teens who have participated in senior week activities that involved living in a group setting, or attending a large gathering, to have them tested for COVID-19.
DPH has begun making contact with the positive cases and their contacts. However, state health officials say contact tracing among the beachgoers may prove challenging since some of the Covid-positive students do not know all of the names of the other teens they have come into contact with.
DPH recommends anyone who participated in senior week consider themselves at risk
“The risk of COVID-19 spread among other young people, of different households, living in group settings without social distancing or wearing face coverings is real, and we will have no way of tracing all of the individuals they may have exposed because they likely don’t know everyone’s names,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay.
State health officials say they not currently aware of additional cases of COVID-19 from senior week activities.
But they “strongly recommend” anyone who participated in senior week activities, especially in Dewey and Rehoboth beach, and who lived or stayed with a group, or attended a large gathering, to consider themselves at risk for the virus, self-monitor for symptoms and to consider getting tested.
State health officials also suggest that teens and young adults who may be living together during the summer months consider getting tested at least once a month.
DPH Medical Director Dr. Rick Hong says this incident underscores the importance of wearing face coverings and social distancing.
Caution about graduation parties
DPH says that families whose children participated in senior week activities at the beach and are planning graduation parties should consider rescheduling them for 14 days after they left. If they hold the parties, parents should consider their children at-risk for the virus and limit the teens’ exposure to vulnerable family and friends such as grandparents or family members with chronic health conditions.
Dr. Hong says experts recognize that the risk for transmission will increase during any economic reopening. “This was incorporated into our overall reopening strategy,” he said. But he said the more interactions people have with each other, the higher the risk of infection.
DPH says those who work in industries with more frequent contact with members of the public (including the hospitality and restaurant industry) should also consider being tested for COVID-19 once a month.
“Just because we are reopening, does not mean the virus is gone. It does not mean the risk is gone. It does not mean things are back to normal,” said Dr. Rattay.
New free testing sites
County Executive Matt Meyer announced a dozen new free testing sites this week in New Castle County. Click here for site locations and hours.
For additional information about testing events, visit the Delaware coronavirus website at: https://coronavirus.delaware.gov/testing/.