The director of the Delaware Division of Public Health this week assured state residents that no vaccine against the coronavirus will be used “that is not shown to be safe and that has not gone through FDA approval or EUA process,” referring to the Food & Drug Administration and Emergency Use Authorization.
Karyl Thomas Rattay made that promise during Gov. John Carney’s weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
Carney, as he does at every weekly briefing, issued a reminder to the public to continue wearing face masks in public settings, especially if it isn’t possible to keep a 6-foot distance from others. He said the most extensive spread of the coronavirus — going back to April — is in Sussex County, where the total number of cases as of Oct. 12 was 7,302. There have been 11,747 cases in New Castle County, which has a population nearly double that of Sussex, and 3,254 in Kent County, where the population is 30 percent lower than in Sussex.
There are an average of 136.1 new cases of the virus per day, “much higher than where we want it to be,” he said, adding that, in mid-August, the number of new cases per day was in the 70s, then started trending upward.
New positive cases are flattening after having been on the rise, and current hospitalizations are increasing. Rattay said details about hospitalization are online at www.de.gov/healthycommunity.
She said there is good news about Newark, where, on Sept. 6, there was the highest number of cases among University of Delaware students. That number has since decreased from 95 to eight. While she is happy to see improvements, “We are going to keep a very close eye on this situation,” she said.
“It’s not over until it’s over,” Carney interjected.
Rattay said several long-term care facilities in Wilmington, Greenwood and Hockessin have had outbreaks of the coronavirus, but that, overall, “everyone has leaned into this situation of weekly testing, which we think it really critical to infection-control,” she said.
Families are planning to come together for the upcoming holidays, but “we really have to pay attention to the fact that these are the settings that put people at risk.”
“You can become very sick from this,” she said.
“A lot of our effort to control the virus and understand its spread is determined by testing,” Carney emphasized, introducing A.J. Schall, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, who said there would be several pop-up testing locations this week. All sites are listed at www.de.gov/coronavirus.
He said newly available at-home testing is convenient and accessible for anyone who has an e-mail address and smartphone or computer. As of mid-week, 486,262 tests have been administered in the state, with 34,287 completed between Oct. 3 and 10.
Replying to a question from the media, Rattay said contact tracers are working to determine the demographics of those who are currently hospitalized.
With the pandemic a factor of concern in the upcoming general election and the state having approved absentee or mail-in balloting for all voters in this election to reduce the need for in-person voting, some have expressed concern about the potential for voter fraud.
Asked by a reporter if he is concerned about possible absentee ballot voter fraud, Carney said he is “very confident” that the Delaware Department of Elections will count all ballots, whether mailed or cast in person.
“I’m not concerned about voter fraud. I’m more concerned about people forgetting and not mailing their ballots in. … I’m pretty confident. I know the new machines are great,” the governor said, noting new voting machines that went into service earlier this year.
Asked if he plans to increase his own security in the wake of a spoiled plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan and possibly the governor of Virginia, Carney said he couldn’t discuss specifics about his security but that it was “sad and a little bit scary with these anti-government militia” targeting a governor.