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Members of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations on Jan. 6, under Phase 1a of vaccine distribution.

Vaccinations against the coronavirus for those in the Phase 1a and 1b groups will be administered during events at the Dover International Speedway the week of Feb. 20.

More information is forthcoming, A.J. Schall, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, said during Gov. John Carney’s press briefing on Tuesday, Feb. 9, as a nodding Carney emphasized, “The focus now is on vaccinations.”

“The goal from the beginning was to vaccinate as many Delawareans as possible, as quickly and equitably as possible. Each of those is critically important. We want to do it fast. We want to do it fair, and we want to do it in a way that addresses all the various populations.

“We are doing this consistent with a prioritization schedule established by an ethics panel to identify those groups as hospital workers, first-responders, those on the front lines of public safety. Those were first up. They were first to get vaccinated, and now they are coming around to get their second doses,” Carney said.

During the governors’ call with White House officials on Tuesday, Carney said, he learned the supply of vaccine to Delaware will be increased.

“They will allocate directly to federally qualified health centers. They will allocate directly to certain pharmacies, to Walgreen pharmacies, that will be part of the allocation, but not taking away from what we are currently allocating to pharmacies and primary care. Achieving our goal depends on supply,” Carney said, adding that once the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved, “It will be a game changer for us.”

Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said the vaccination against the virus is “better than gold to healthcare providers” and that doctors are being urged to develop plans for its use. If the six doses available in each vial are not used in a certain amount of time, they will spoil and have to be thrown away.

“If doctors have a waiting list of people who are 65 and older and you have extra vaccine, make those calls and ask people to come in. … We really do not want to waste it,” she said.

Schall said 49,274 people were tested during the week of Jan. 23, and 37 936 were tested during the week of Jan. 30.

He advised looking on the website to check for possible weather-related testing event cancelations. Despite snow days that caused cancelations, he said, testing remains on track.

“There is no slowing down,” Schall said.

“Even with snow days, we are far above our original goal of 80,000 each month. The public is paying attention. They haven’t lost the focus of the importance of knowing their status and protecting themselves,” Carney said.

Schall said it’s important to get tested, even after being vaccinated, because the virus can be spread by those who are asymptomatic.

Replying to a question from a news reporter, Carney said the recent drop in cases is attributed to restrictions put in place, including reducing dining capacity at restaurants and making mask wearing mandatory, as well as widespread testing.

Carney said he has seen an increase in mask wearing.

“I’d like to believe Delawareans have really pulled together and followed the restrictions and guidelines we have put in place,” the governor said.

Agreeing, Rattay said state residents are making good choices.

“We saw a lot of clusters of cases related to these indoor gatherings. … I think the change in the indoor gathering behaviors have helped us to see a decrease, as well as people seem to be very comfortable wearing face coverings now,” Rattay said.

Viruses peak, she said, and the recent decrease in cases could be a natural progression.

“It could kick back up again, especially with the new variants. We would love to breathe a sigh of relief at this point, but we can’t,” she said.

Delaware is one of nine states that has vaccinated 10 percent or more of its population, “so we remain in the top tier of states. We’re just so pleased,” Rattay said.

“We have been working hard to ensure those who received their first dose have access to their second dose. … It’s fine, certainly, if you don’t meet that 21 or 28 days that is recommended to get the second dose, but our goal is to be sure everyone has the second dose by 42 days,” she said.

She praised Schall for setting up multiple testing sites.

“We are — knock on wood — on a trend downward,” Schall said. “We hope it stays this way.”

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.