As COVID-19 cases rise and demands for more testing increase, Gov. John Carney will hold a virtual press briefing at 12:45 p.m. Thursday about Delaware’s response to COVID-19.
The Delaware Division of Public Health also said there are no plans now for mass testing events to return and that residents should sign up for testing at a nearby pharmacy or facility.
He will have as guests Molly Magarik, who is the secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services; Dr. Gary Siegelman, who is chief medical officer at Bayhealth; and Dr. Ellie Salinski, who is assistant medical director of Kent County Emergency Department for Bayhealth.
The move comes after Delaware broke its own record for the most new positive cases in a single day twice at the end of last week, while recording four straight days of more than 1,000 cases a day.
That number has dropped, reflecting a lack of testing on Friday through Saturday because venues were closed for Christmas holidays.
But this week, many people have commented on the Department of Public Health’s Facebook page about the lack of available testing slots with some calling for a return to mass testing events to satisfy demands.
“Testing has exploded in the state over the last week, and demand for testing is only expected to increase as people start to return to school and work from the holidays,” said Sharon Smith, a spokeswoman for the Delaware Division of Public Health.
She said Curative alone processed more than 46,000 tests last week compared to 31,000 the week before and on Dec. 27 alone, 12,000 COVID-19 tests were administered in Delaware.
“While some of our health care partners have previously held mass testing events, the Division of Public Health has not,” she said.
Its mass events were vaccination events, something we continue to encourage all Delawareans who are eligible to do.
“We understand that Delawareans are eager to receive COVID testing,” she said. “Testing is still available statewide, getting appointments for a rapid test versus a PCR test, at a more convenient location near you, at the exact time you want, or getting tested without an appointment may be more challenging, particularly this week with some sites having reduced hours due to the upcoming New Year’s holiday weekend. Walk in opportunities are likely to be limited. Individuals should be aware of this to reduce undue frustration.”
The state urges people to practice patience and kindness toward testing staff, because of the increase in demand and the sheer volume of tests that are being administered.
Those seeking testing can find a complete list of testing sites and events by going to https://coronavirus.delaware.gov/testing/to find information on in-person testing locations and events, and at-home test kits.
Please don’t go to a hospital emergency room to be tested, Smith said.
Hospitals are already strained with increasing cases of COVID-19 and flu and need to be reserved for medical emergencies, she said.
One person commenting on the Facebook page of Public Health said she took her daughter to an urgent care to be tested and was charged $265.
Finally, she said, “We strongly encourage everyone to consider the risks of attending large New Year’s Eve gatherings. Additionally, if you do not feel well or have any symptoms, stay home. Do not go out and risk spreading COVID.”
Carney has said repeatedly that he has no plans to institute any further restrictions, although the state is warning people not to gather in large groups and to wear masks inside because of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Most cases in Delaware still are the Delta variant, the state has reported.
Also on Tuesday, the state adopted the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations to shorten isolations and quarantines for COVID-19 under certain circumstances.
The CDC said the majority of COVID-19 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.
Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if they have no symptoms at that time, they may leave isolation as long as they continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others,. the state press release said.
The CDC’s new guidance says:
- For those who test positive for COVID-19 – but don’t have symptoms – the isolation period can be reduced from 10 days to 5 days as long as the person wears a mask around others (in and out-of-home) for at least 5 additional days. If you have a fever, remain in isolation until the fever resolves.
- For close contacts who are unvaccinated, or more than 6 months out from their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or 2 months out from their single dose of Johnson & Johnson (without a booster), quarantine has been reduced from 10 days to 5 days, followed by mask use for an additional 5 days.
- For close contacts who have received their booster shot, or are less than six months out from being fully vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna or are less than 2 months from their J&J vaccine, no quarantine is needed, but these persons should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure to the positive case.
- For vaccinated close contacts who are not yet eligible for a booster – including students younger than 16 – no quarantine is needed. DPH is reviewing the guidance and evaluating its impact on the Test-to-Stay program.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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