As many as 22,000 Delawareans signed up to get vaccinated against COVID-19 on Tuesday, the first day the state's waiting list opened to all Delawareans 16 and older.
"That number is actually a little bit lower than I thought it was going to be. When we opened it up to 65 years and older, first day it was like 75-to-80,000 signed up. That means people have been able to get vaccinated as essential workers, based on their employment, and that's a good thing," said Gov. John Carney.
Opting for an evening virtual town hall Tuesday over his weekly coronavirus news conference, Carney said the state has capacity to vaccinate 15,000 people per week via the waiting list. Invitations to those who've signed up for the state's waiting list are prioritized by both age and health risks. To sign up for the waiting list, click here.
Pfizer is the only vaccine available for Delawareans ages 16 and 17. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine are only for those 18 and older.
"There are studies, work being done to see if we can lower the age group for Pfizer even more as well as Moderna, but right now that's not the case," said Dr. Rick Hong, the state's medical director.
Clinical trial results of Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine showed its efficacy is 100% and…
Hong added high schools could be a vehicle to get 16- and 17-year-olds vaccinated.
"We are looking at ways we can get the vaccine out before the school year so that they can come in fully vaccinated before the new school year," said Dr. Hong.
Pharmacies are a second option for Delawareans 16 and older to seek vaccination. Gov. Carney said the state is sending 10,000 doses weekly to local pharmacies. Another 14,000 doses are going directly to pharmacies via the federal pharmacy partnership. But the process of getting an appointment at a pharmacy, especially each time eligibility expands, becomes chaotic. Carney addressed a question Tuesday night from a member of the public about why this process can't be more streamlined.
"It would be great to have a statewide clearing house or a statewide unified system with the federal government, but we don't have one...it's something to think about post-pandemic," said the governor.
Delaware has administered more than a half-million COVID-19 vaccine doses to date, with Carney saying the state is now administering about 61,000 doses a week, with many of those doses coming from pharmacies. Some of those are second doses.
"Our major push and our message tonight is for everybody to now that you're eligible, everybody 16 and older is eligible to sign up for our wait list," said Carney. "We feed that wait list to the vaccination clinics, give you an opportunity to get an appointment."
One-thousand people were vaccinated Friday and Saturday at a vaccination clinic at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. The vaccination clinic, which some elected officials had said was open to the public, was solely for select zip codes, DHSS was forced to clarify later in the day as it turned away several people that only those with vouchers would be accepted.
But while vaccinations are flowing, coronavirus cases are rising.
"The bad news is it's making people feel a little bit more comfortable, a little bit more confident, we're into the nicer weather...the result is the virus is spreading. We are steadily moving down out of our winter peak over the January/February timeframe we had gotten under 100 hospitalizations. We we were comfortable under 200 new cases a day," said Carney.
This week, new cases rose to 322 over a seven-day moving average. The state's positivity rate rose to 5.5%, above the target recommendation for reopening by the World Health Organization. Hospitalizations fell from 163 to 140 over the past week, but in prior weeks had dropped to double-digits.
Weeks ago, barely any locations in the state were labeled COVID-19 "hot spots." Now, several areas have re-emerged as "areas of concern" with rising case rates, including Claymont, Newark, Bear, Middletown, Clayton, Dover, Felton, Camden, Magnolia, Frankford, Dagsboro, Millville. Areas of concern in Wilmington include the following zip codes: 19801, 19802, 19804, 19805, 19806, 19807.
"We need to flatten the curve again; we need to keep making sure we're careful in public spaces--keep your distance, wear your face mask, wear your face mask, wear your face mask--that's the most important advice," said Carney.
The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) has identified 41 cases of the UK variant strain of COVID-19 and 54 cases of the B.1.526 New York variant strain of the virus, according to public health data. Just one case of the South African variant has surfaced in Delaware thus far.
DPH officials told WDEL that 24 people considered "fully vaccinated" have tested positive for COVID-19. The public health agency was working to determine whether anyone whose been fully vaccinated has been hospitalized.
"It is a concern that we're seeing an increased number of areas of concern," said Dr. Hong. "This is just a reminder that we were doing well, numbers were coming down, but they're creeping again. We can't forget our infection control measures; it's great that people are getting vaccinated, but the vaccine is not 100% against infection. It is great against hospitalization, and death, and severe disease, but is not 100% effective. So we have to remind ourselves that we still have to continue with wearing face masks, social distancing, and washing hands, like we did before the vaccine. That has not changed."
Anyone who's traveled, especially internationally or to an area with high case rates, regardless of vaccination status, is urged to get tested three-to-five days upon their return home. A negative COVID-19 test is also required for re-entry into the United States from anywhere internationally.