Twelve Republican state representatives on Tuesday sent an open letter to Gov. John Carney asking that he reconsider mask mandates in state buildings and schools and stop advocating for COVID-19 booster shots.
They encouraged the Democratic governor to promptly end all pandemic-related restrictions, return state workers to their normal places of employment, and “restore normality” for all Delawareans.
The legislators said that despite repeated requests, Carney has never publicly shared what COVID-19 metrics he considers when making decisions about imposing mandates, or what standards need to be met to remove restrictions once they have been imposed.
Based on the latest data provided by the Department of Health and Social Services, more than two-thirds of Delaware’s population ages 5 and up have been fully vaccinated including nearly 77 percent of adults.
The lawmakers emphasized that those most at-risk for serious consequences from COVID – senior citizens – have a full-vaccination rate approaching 93 percent.
“Additionally, about a quarter of our population, including many individuals who chose not to be vaccinated, have had confirmed cases of COVID, providing some level of naturally acquired immunity,” they wrote. “This does not count the untold thousands of Delawareans who had asymptomatic cases of the virus that escaped detection.”
During Carney’s weekly COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, he encouraged Delawareans to get vaccinated and boosted and said he hasn’t yet had a chance to read the Republicans’ letter.
“We’ve tried hard over the last two years to keep open lines of communications with all legislators, Democratic or Republican,” Carney said. “I’ll take a look at the letter and we’ll continue to work with members of the party on the other side to do the best for all Delawareans.
He noted that “when it comes to COVID, there’s no ‘D’s or ‘R’s or ‘I’s. Everybody’s a Delawarean and we’re trying to protect each and every one.”
The letter was signed by Reps. Steve Smyk, Tim Dukes, Jesse Vanderwende, Mike Ramone, Danny Short, Mike Smith, Charles Postles, Jeff Spiegelman, Ruth Briggs King, Rich Collins, Ron Gray and Shannon Morris.
The Republican lawmakers pointed to a Jan. 19, 2022 article published in The Lancet, a medical journal, which suggests that the “transmission intensity of omicron is so high that policy actions [such as] increasing mask use, expanding vaccination coverage in people who have not been vaccinated, or delivering third doses of COVID-19 vaccines…will have limited impact on the course of the omicron wave.”
That’s because the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has found that increasing COVID-19 vaccine boosters or vaccinating people who have not yet been vaccinated is “unlikely to have any substantial impact on the omicron wave because by the time these interventions are scaled up the omicron wave will be largely over.”
The letter notes that evidence suggests that the omicron wave crested in Delaware in early January.
According to DHSS metrics, COVID hospitalizations, the percentage of positive tests, and the percentage of new cases have all trended downward over the last month, the letter says.
“We all realize that the last two years have presented unprecedented trials for leaders at every level of government around the world,” the lawmakers wrote. “Sharp disagreements about the nature, timing and scope of how to respond to these uncharted conditions was unavoidable.”
While Republican legislators have frequently disagreed with Carney’s actions throughout the pandemic, they said they recognize the “extreme difficulty” of having to make those decisions in such a chaotic environment.
But “pursuing our current policies — advocating a seemingly endless series of vaccinations and continuing the mandatory use of face masks in state facilities and schools while lifting those mandates in the private sector — is imprudent and appears to lack any justifiable factual grounding,” the Republicans said.
“After spending trillions of dollars and making disturbing intrusions into every aspect of American life, our state and federal governments need to recognize the futility and hubris of believing they can fully irradicate COVID and eliminate every element of risk it presents.”
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