A University of Delaware faculty member on Wednesday became the first Delawarean to test positive for coronavirus, and the university immediately suspended classes for two weeks and will transition to online classes.
The university also announced that spring break will begin Saturday despite it originally being scheduled for March 28.
Until Wednesday, Delaware was one of the few states that did not have a confirmed case of COVID-19. Neighboring states — Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — have all confirmed cases of coronavirus.
Delaware's announcement came on the same day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic.
"We've been expecting this for weeks," Gov. John Carney said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. "We're not panicking and neither should you."
More about faculty member with virus
The faculty member lives in New Castle County and is over the age of 50 years old, state health officials said. He self-isolated at home when he began experiencing symptoms and is not "severely ill."
The man was exposed to another confirmed case of COVID-19 in a different state, officials said. The Division of Public Health is working to identify any close contacts of the individuals who were possibly exposed and said it would release no more information about the man.
State health officials believe he came in contact with fewer than 50 people because he self-quarantined "quite quickly," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health.
His case is described as a presumptive positive until it is confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It will be an evolving situation as it has been in other states," Carney added, "and we will respond accordingly."
UD follows the lead
UD's reaction was swift.
After announcing it will move spring break up, the university followed the lead of colleges across the country to transition to online instruction beginning March 23.
Classes will remain online until further notice. The decision applies to both the
Newark campus and the Associate of Arts program in Wilmington.
Students still have the option of remaining in residence halls, and campus dining services will continue to operate.
As of Wednesday, the state has tested 31 people for COVID-19, including the person who tested positive. There have been 21 negative results, and nine still pending.
Ria Allman, a manager at the Delaware Public Health Lab, said the state can run 100 tests a day — but hasn't hit that capacity yet. The state runs, on average, two samples per patient.
Allman said the lab plans to bring on more staff to handle testing of the eventual increase in specimens.
Despite concerns in other states about the availability of coronavirus tests, Delaware has been able to keep up with the testing as of now, Rattay said.
Taking care of yourself
Health officials encourage residents to follow good hygiene — washing hands regularly, avoiding touching the face and sneezing into the elbow, as well as stocking up on supplies such as food, water and medicines; avoiding crowds; and having a plan in place in case you or someone in your family gets sick.
If you are sick, do not go to work, officials have stressed.
Seniors and people with underlying medical conditions should avoid large crowds in order to reduce their risk of contracting coronavirus.
For those who have concerns or questions about the virus, call (866) 408-1899 or email questions to DPHCall@delaware.gov.
Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 324-2386 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @merenewman.