State to add machines that will quickly test for COVID on site

    A.J. Schall Jr., director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency said the state is about to buy some portable testing machines.
    A.J. Schall Jr., director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency said the state is about to buy some portable testing machines.

    The state has been testing machines that allow quick answers on Covid-19 tests at the testing sites themselves.

    A.J. Schall Jr., director of the Delaware Division of Emergency management, said the federally approved new technology offers point-of-care machines that require nasal swabs.

    The machines can give answers in 15 minutes, Schall said.

     

    The portable machines, which could be located at schools or universities, was one of many aspects of testing that Schall, Carney and others touched on during Gov. John Carney’s weekly COVID-19 press conference Tuesday.

    The topics included a dip in testing in August, the ramping up of testing for schools and students, and an expansion of testing by Walgreens. Health officials also asked residents to resume health screenings for cancers and to make sure children see their doctors for immunizations.

    Carney also said the state is applying for federal money to increase unemployment payments and plans to budget money to resurface roads hurts in recent bad weather.

     

    The portable testing machine

    Schall said Dr. Rick Pescatore, the chief physician for the Delaware Division of Public Health, had been testing the machines.

    “We’re working to finalize a contract to get those in sate, and then strategically locate them,” Schall said.

    Pescatore is “working on a few partners to really see how we could use that to become a force multiplier,” Schall said. “Not only would be it faster turnaround, it would be higher through-put” and have economical advantages.

     

    Testing down in August

    The number of Delawareans tested for COVID-19 in July hit a high of 71,000, coming on the heels of an outbreak in the beaches and expanded testing statewide.

    Bad weather in August closed testing sites, and there hasn’t been a big emotional moment like the outbreak, Schall said. He expects the numbers of people to be tested in August to hit around 50,000, which would mirror June. He expects it to rebound in September, partly because of tests for kids going back to class in K-12 and at universities.

     

    Schools, home tests, Walgreens

    Schall said the state will start testing in school districts now, usually about a week to 10 days before the kids go back to class in that district. Testing is free and no appointments are necessary.

    Staff will meet families in parking lots to take care of paperwork, and then small groups will be escorted into the schools, usually into gyms, for testing, he said. Masks and social distancing are required.

    Doing the tests inside allows it to continue even if it rains, he said.

    The testing at schools are open to all community members, he said.

     

    Schall also said:

    • The state has sent about 11,000 test-at-home kits to teachers, faculty and staff. He’s pleased at the 48- to 72-hour turnaround on tests.
    • “We’re looking to expand this in early to mid-September for individuals, maybe over the age of 60 or those who don’t have transportation so they could get that test right at their house.”
    • The state Division of Public Health has been working with Walgreens to plan five more testing around the state. There are now three, one in every county. “The nice thing about the Walgreens is that they are seven days a week, so it provides a little bit more flexibility.”
    Dr,. Karyl Rattay of the Delaware Division of Public Health urged people to return to their doctors for screenings, immunizations.
    Dr,. Karyl Rattay of the Delaware Division of Public Health urged people to return to their doctors for screenings, immunizations.

    Immunizations and health screenings

    Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, pointed out that childhood immunizations dropped dramatically during April and May. It started to bounce back, but not to the level it should, she said.

    “The vaccinations obviously are extremely important in and of themselves, but they’re also really important indicators for our kids getting their well child visits,” she said.

    Those visits soon will include flu shots, which are critical this year, she said.

     

    It’s safe to take kids back to the doctor, she said.

    Adult visits for chronic conditions as well as health screenings such as mammograms, cervical cancer and colorectal exams also plummeted when the state was shut down because of the novel coronavirus, she said.

    They have not bounced back.

     

    Studies show that people with underlying conditions — asthma, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or cancer — whose conditions are under control fare better if infected with COVID-19, she said.

    The state wants to encourage people to reconnect with their health care providers about their conditions, and to have screenings for cancers. If a cancer is caught early, it’s easier to treat, Rattay said.

    If you are underinsured or not insured, she said, the Healthy Delaware program can make sure you get the tests.

    Gov. John Carney demonstrates how to correctly wear a face mask during his Tuesday press conference.
    Gov. John Carney demonstrates how to correctly wear a face mask during his Tuesday press conference.

    All hail Newark

    Gov. John Carney praised the Newark emergency rule passed Monday night that limits the number of people in a home to 12 adults and the number of adults outside to 20.

    While one council member says the rule is just another bargaining chip, it has both fines and hours of community service attached as penalties upon conviction.

    “I think the Newark restrictions make a lot of sense, because they’re based on what we’ve seen across the country, which is off-campus parties that get out of control and alcohol is involved,” Carney said.

     

    “We don’t want to see it here in Delaware,” he said.

    When he was in college, he said, he would have had that kind of party and made a joke of it, he said.

    “It’s not funny,” he said. “And it’s really, really putting people at risk.” He said the rule would prevent the spread of the virus and maybe even save lives.

    “Mayor Clifton, I think he is doing an excellent job and trying to manage what’s a very challenging situation,” Carney said.