In a Tuesday night virtual town hall meeting, Gov. John Carney hit on a wide range of topics, from those 16 and older being allowed to register for vaccines to saying the state expects to have students back in school in the fall.
He began the evening event by noting that COVID-19 numbers continue to move in the wrong direction. New positive cases are hitting 322 per day with a 5.5% positive test rate. Hospitalizations have dropped to 140 from 167.
That is affecting opening up the economy more, even while vaccinations are rising, Carney said.
The state announced Tuesday morning that as of Monday 502,927 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Delaware and about 35 percent of Delaware’s population has received at least one shot and 164,129 people fully vaccinated.
Carney said that the state has been distributing around 60,000 vaccines each week, largely through the pharmacy program. Today, vaccine eligibility opened to everyone 16 years and older and by the time Carney’s meeting started at 6 p.m., 22,000 people had signed up today. Carney said he was surprised that the number wasn’t higher, because when those 65 and older could sign up, about 70,000 did on the first day.
He said he suspected many of the people in the younger group have been vaccinated as essential workers.
With everybody 16 and older now eligible for vaccines, the state wants younger people without underlying health issues to register with the state at vaccinerequest.delaware.gov or with a pharmacy. The state will continue prioritize its list by age and underlying conditions as it chooses who is invited to vaccine events. Medical providers such as doctors and hospitals are asked to continue focusing on those with moderate- to high-risk medical conditions.
Carney and Dr. Rick Hong, medical director of the Division of Public Health, said DPH is working with the Delaware Department of Education to arrange vaccinations in high schools for the qualifying students there.
Even with higher vaccine numbers, Hong talked about how new cases are widespread throughout Delaware, and the state continues to find more cases of the new variants, which are thought to be more infectious.
Darryl Chambers, program director of the Community Intervention Team, talked about setting up vaccines for underserved and vulnerable communities and how he worked with community leaders and elders to set up clinics.
He said that if any organization would like to sponsor an event, his group was willing to work with them. Chambers also said that his team tracks requests for vaccines and when 200 people in a community of vulnerable people ask to have vaccines in the New Castle area, he is able to set up a vaccination site there.
Many questions dealt with the difficulty of getting first or second vaccine shots, why restrictions continue to require masks and limits on indoor dining and whether schools will be fully open in the fall.
Carney agreed the vaccine system is unwieldy and that it’s hard to navigate, but pointed out that there is no national unified system that allows people to register and get appointments. But, he said, the state, pharmacy and federal system do all talk to each other in some way, so vaccines can be tracked.
The idea of a national or better program will have to be addressed after the pandemic, he said.
Carney said that he thought a few weeks ago that the number of cases and hospitalizations were declining enough that restaurant capacity could be raised, but then more cases and hospitalizations started showing up.
For now, he said, restrictions on restaurant capacity and mask mandates will remain in place.
Carney said the state fully intends to have schools completely in person for the fall. Getting children back in schools is one of his highest priorities, he said, but only time is going to be able to tell if it’s possible.