Once a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus is approved for use, those at risk for illness and the most vulnerable, as well as first-responders, will receive it first, Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, announced during Gov. John Carney’s press conference this week.

Rattay said Division of Public Health officials have been working on plans for the vaccine for months and know vaccines must be stored at very low temperatures.

“We have much of our plan completed, at least as it relates to what information we have now,” she said.

The National Academy of Science has released information about vaccination prioritization, and eventually there will be enough of the vaccine for everyone in Delaware, she said.

“All of that will evolve in the next six to eight months or so,” Rattay said.

Carney, at the Tuesday, Sept. 22, briefing, said the vaccine had been discussed during governors’ weekly call with White House staff, and governors were assured the vaccines are safe and protocol is being followed.

Carney said cases of the coronavirus are going down in Delaware and that there was a 5 percent positive test rate mid-week.

“We are not as healthy as we want to be but not as bad as other states, so we are kind of in this middle zone. Our No. 1 objective is to get our children, our young children, back in school for in-person instruction,” he said.

On Tuesday, Delaware had a 6.7 percent positive rate, with 103.9 new cases per day and 6,666 cases in Sussex County, where there is the highest rate of infection.

The virus often spreads “because of your normal interactions,” such as parties, Carney said.

“That’s when people drop their guard down and they take their masks off. The message is: Get tested, get tested, get tested,” even for those who don’t feel sick, he said.

Those who are very ill should go to the hospital and schedule necessary medical procedures without delay, the governor said. He reminded Delaware residents about the free COVID Alert DE app that can notify users if they have come into proximity with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

“You should get tested anyway, but if you sign up for this voluntarily, anonymously, you’ll get an alert,” he said.

The app uses anonymous identifiers with Bluetooth smartphone technology to determine who may have been in close proximity to a positive-testing person, and users are provided with a special confirmation code from DPH that they can enter in the app if they test positive, which results in those anonymous contacts being notified that they should get tested.

Carney also issued reminders this week about responding the U.S. Census and registering to vote.

Rattay, who celebrated her birthday on Tuesday — said she “got a song from Gov. Carney” — announced that there had been a coronavirus outbreak related to the University of Delaware, and other outbreaks in the Wilmington, Newark and Bridgeville areas.

“We’re keeping an eye on these areas,” she said, explaining that the Division of Public Health responds by increasing testing, providing education, enforcing state mandates and gathering data. The State is now better able to respond to testing when there are increases in communities. She also urged Delaware residents to get flu shots and said it’s especially important for high-risk populations. Although the flu shot won’t stop the coronavirus, it will prevent the flu and the resulting likelihood of hospital overcrowding, she said.

“We can’t let our guard down,” she added, reviewing the importance of staying home if ill, wearing a face mask, washing hands frequently and staying safe distances from others.

A.J. Schall, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, reviewed testing locations, including one in Sussex County on Thursday, Sept. 24, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Delaware Technical Community College in Georgetown.

Schall said home testing kits will become available to Delaware residents 16 or older who have a smartphone or tablet computer and e-mail address.

“You do it with a medical provider over a Zoom session; then you drop it in the mailbox, and you have results within 48 to 72 hours,” he said.

Answering a reporter who asked how school officials are working with children and teachers who have underlying health conditions, Carney said the teachers will instruct remotely, instead of being in classrooms, and school districts are “very conscious of protecting students, as well as teachers.”

Rattay said the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends getting as many children back to school as possible, “but there’s no one-size-fits-all,” she said.

A child with a mild case of asthma would be treated differently than a child with a heart condition or cancer, she said, adding wearing face coverings will protect from almost all infection.

Replying to a question from the Coastal Point about his reaction to President Donald Trump calling a news reporter being shot in the knee with a rubber bullet “a beautiful thing,” Carney said it “sounds like a terrible thing to me, a terrible thing to say. I’m ashamed it was said.”

He said Trump made another disturbing comment during a joint call with 46 governors.

“He said he would send out the U.S. military into their states, and they would use real bullets and not rubber bullets if they did not dominate the streets,” he said.

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.