State officials blamed the Delta variant Tuesday night for increased numbers of COVID-19 cases in Delaware.
During an online town hall meeting, the officials also talked about a new type of testing, whether a vaccine booster shot will be needed and COVID-19 regulations that will be in place when schools start next month.
The meeting came on the day that Gov. John Carney officially lifted his emergency COVID-19 order to expire, removing mask and social distancing guidelines, among other things.
Coronavirus statistics have gone up across the state since Governor Carney stopped holding weekly press conferences two weeks ago when all statistics were on the way down.
On Tuesday, the state was seeing an average of 29.1 new cases per day, up from only 20 two weeks ago, while the percentage of positive tests has climbed up to 1.8%, up from 1%.
Hospitalizations have been used in the past as an indicator of how hard the disease has been hitting the state, and they also have increased. On Tuesday, 27 people were hospitalized for COVID-19, up from 14 on June 27.
The highly contagious Delta variant, which has been sweeping the nation especially in unvaccinated populations, could be to blame for the increase, said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health.
The state randomly tests positive case and there’s been an increase in the Delta variant, first spotted in India, and a drop in the Alpha variant, originally found in Britain and the variant that has the most cases in Delaware.
While the state has been constantly finding two cases of the Delta variant in its random testing, last week it saw eight. Because far fewer cases are tested than are known to exist, that means there’s likely to be many more cases caused by the Delta variant, which is said to be more infectious and more dangerous.
Rattay said that the best way to protect oneself from this variant is to get vaccinated.
She also said the state follow the Centers for Disease Control’s COVID-19 guidance for schools when they begin reopening next month.
The CDC recommends that vaccination should be promoted to those eligible to take it.
The Centers also recommended that individuals not vaccinated should wear masks and that all students should maintain a physical distance of three feet from each other whenever possible.
Rattay said that the state will work with school districts and the Department of Education to encourage students involved with athletics to get vaccinated after student athletics saw a number of cases in the last year.
The state also announced Tuesday that Curative testing sites will move from a saliva-based test to a nasal-based one.
Results from the nasal test, called the Abbot Shallow nasal PCR test, are expected to return in the same time frame that the saliva-based ones did, about 24 to 48 hours.
Individuals being tested will be directed by trained personal on how to self-administer the test. It involves a swab being inserted ½ inch to about ¾ of an inch into each nostril for about 30 seconds.
Rattay and Carney also said that Delaware would be prepared to administer booster shots if federal health officials call for it.
Pfizer caused a national stir last week when it said that a third shot might be needed to top off the immunity that its first two shots created.
Rattay said that pharmaceutical companies are looking into the creation of a booster shot. but there’s still no way to tell if or when we might need them.
She said the current two doses of vaccine seem to have a little more efficacy than expected. Another factor would be if a variant ever came about that the current vaccines didn’t protect against.
Carney agreed with Rattay in saying Delaware is aptly prepared in the case that a third shot is necessary.
“We certainly learned a lot. We know how to do it, right, A.J.?” Carney said to A.J. Schall Jr., director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency. “With great partners and great venues, we can certainly do it again.”
On Monday, Carney also authorized the Division of Public Health to direct COVID-19 vaccination, treatment and mitigation measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Under that rule, the Delaware National Guard may also provide support under the direction of the director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency and the Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
The new order continues to specify that Delaware providers that offer COVID-19 vaccinations must do so at no out-of-pocket cost to individuals.
All health care providers, facilities and entities that offer vaccinations shall make those vaccinations available to any person meeting the vaccination criteria without regard to that person’s ability to pay, type of health insurance or participation in any particular provider network.
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