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Div. of Public Health clears up COVID misconceptions with state lawmakers

Delaware Public Media

The Division of Public Health reviewed its coronavirus response with state lawmakers Wednesday.


What’s next as Delaware manages the COVID-19 pandemic was top of mind for lawmakers during Wednesday’s Joint Finance Committee hearing with DPH. 


Division director Dr. Karyl Rattay says like every other public health department in the country, Delaware was not prepared for the outbreak at the beginning.


She adds the state was probably worse off than others at the start, since it did not have any epidemiology graduate training until late 2019.


“Our focus now is not only to protect the public from COVID-19, but to use the federal resources that are coming to our state to really strengthen those systems in a way to not to help us respond now but to prepare us better for the future," Rattay said.


Rattay says it’s obvious COVID-19 won’t be the last new disease to wreak havoc, and she wants to ensure the department is prepared.


Some lawmakers commented on DPH’s fairly modest budget proposal, taking over 70 positions off the state’s payroll to take advantage of federal funds for COVID-19 response.


Rattay notes there’s money coming in from the federal government to help with the department’s response to the pandemic.


DPH also spent time with the Joint Finance Committee Wednesday - trying to clear up misconceptions about the state’s coronavirus response.


State Sen. Laura Sturgeon (D-Brandywine West) says many of her constituents are confused about the continued delayed reporting of  COVID-19 deaths.


Rattay says in the past, healthcare providers would take their time in reporting deaths to the state.


“For hospitals and for long term care facilities to directly report deaths to us is a new process, it’s not something that they ordinarily do," Rattay said. "And so I think they’ve done the best that they can but they don’t all get reported to us.”


Rattay also spent a significant amount of time answering  State Sen. Dave Lawson’s (R-Cheswold) questions about why the division is spending money on testing and not refocusing it on vaccine distribution.


Rattay says testing remains an extremely important part of managing the virus, especially considering vaccine distribution nationwide remains very slow.


She adds there’s enough funds in the distribution program to deliver the vaccines as they arrive.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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