Thanksgiving masks (copy)

A coalition of Northeastern governors is urging colleges and universities to offer COVID-19 testing to students before they leave for Thanksgiving break, to have them quarantine on campus if testing positive, and to utilize remote learning until the end of the fall semester. The effort is intended to reduce the risk of students carrying the coronavirus to their home communities.

Gov. John Carney began his Tuesday, Nov. 24, press briefing with uplifting news — he, and other governors, had met with President-Elect Joe Biden for “a very positive meeting,” and the first of the coronavirus vaccines should arrive in Delaware in early December.

“We’re kind of unified in our message,” Carney said, referring to Biden.

“What we needed in the federal government was leadership, and setting the example from the federal government and the leadership of that office,” he said, adding that Biden had discussed upcoming vaccines with the governors during the call.

Three vaccines are nearing final approval “and coming down the home stretch,” he said.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel. The cavalry is coming with a vaccine,” he said, repeating, as he has for months, the importance of people continuing to wear face masks and keeping safe distances from others.

Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said there are some expected side effects from the vaccines, including sore arms, fever, nausea or body aches.

Vaccines could arrive in Delaware between Dec. 11 and 14, she said, and be more widely available by March. They will most likely be administered in pharmacies, as well as by doctors. The State will also have vaccination clinics, Rattay said.

“It’s going to be a small amount to start with that will be coming to Delaware. There are a couple committees that have been, for months, looking at the best way to maximize the benefits and minimize any harm from these vaccines and prioritize who gets it first,” she said.

First to receive vaccines will be frontline healthcare workers in close contact with those who have the coronavirus, including doctors, nurses and emergency service providers.

“We need to be ready to hit the ground running. It is going to take months to get it out to significant portions of the population,” the governor said.

“It’s really easy to slip a little bit, to not wear a mask when you’re having a Thanksgiving celebration,” he cautioned. “We’re advising pushing off those celebrations. … That’s the best way to prevent the spread, instead of bringing in cousins and young people who are coming home from college. For me, it’s a way to protect my 89-year-old mother,” Carney said.

Rattay advised the public against taking residents of long-term care facilities home with them for the holiday.

Although Delaware residents are ideally not supposed to be traveling out of the state, they might travel within the state to visit family and friends, Carney said, and must be careful if they do.

“We don’t want to close down our restaurants and bars,” he said.

He acknowledged that tighter restrictions are already in place, but said he has heard Pennsylvania “will be shutting down,” causing concern those residents will travel out of state, looking for places to socialize.

“Don’t come to Delaware. That is our message: Don’t come to Delaware,” he said.

Asked if he will implement additional tighter restrictions, Carney said they had been considered but there was concern about pushing those who would normally go to bars or restaurants into private homes, where they would be less likely to wear masks. There was also worry about hurting businesses.

“We’ll take a look at that and see what works. Make sure you are careful so you don’t force our hand to have tighter restrictions,” Carney said.

Asked why there is no stay-at-home order in the midst of increased cases, Carney said a complete shutdown has significant economic impact.

“It’s an exercise in trying to strike the right balance,” he said, adding that the State will continue to lobby for a second round of stimulus checks.

Rattay said 52 Delaware residents have died from the coronavirus in the past month — a statistic she called “sobering.”

Although some compare the virus to the flu, she said 757 Delaware residents died since the pandemic began, adding that the number will increase. Deaths from flu in a typical year are far fewer.

“The impact is tragic to so many in our state,” she said.

The entire state is now an area of concern, and not just certain ZIP codes, as had been the case previously. There had been a 40 percent jump in cases in New Castle County in the past week, as well as more illness in Bear, Middletown, Delmar, Milford, Lincoln and Ellendale.

“The spread is throughout the state. There is no state where we can say we are not concerned,” Rattay said.

Concerning young adults coming home from college for the holiday, Rattay said testing “isn’t a hall pass to do whatever you want to.”

“Even though you tested negative on a particular day, continue to act as though you might be positive, and it is really important to wear face mask. As much as you might want to give Grandma or Grandpa a hug, now is not the time. Please be as careful as you possibly can, and consider getting tested again about five days after your arrival home,” she said.

A.J. Schall, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, said the National Guard is helping get Delaware residents tested. Last week, the State worked with three universities to be sure there was testing on campus, although, he said, “that test was just a snapshot in time” and only good for that day.

Asked about the likelihood of there being indoor sports in coming months, Rattay said athletes who play outdoor sports have worn masks without complaint, but indoor sports — especially wrestling and basketball — require close contact. She said experts are trying to figure out how to mitigate the risks.

Staff Reporter

Veteran news reporter Susan Canfora has written for many newspapers and held positions ranging from managing editor to her favorite, news reporter. She joined the Coastal Point in June 2019. She teaches college writing, tutors and professionally edits.