WILMINGTON — State officials are cautious about another surge in COVID-19 cases as Delawareans gather for the upcoming holidays and spend more time indoors during the winter months.
The state is encouraging booster doses for those who are eligible and first doses for those who have yet to receive one.
Gov. John Carney said he’d like to avoid any mask mandates or gathering limits this winter.
“I hope not,” Gov. Carney said after receiving his COVID-19 booster shot on Thursday at a Walgreens in Wilmington. “It’s going to be one of the tougher decisions we’ll have to make.”
Delaware’s rate of COVID-19 positive cases increased by 16% since last week, with the highest rates among children ages 5 to 17. With children above the age of 5 now eligible for the vaccine, Delaware Division of Public Health director Dr. Karyl Rattay said the state is focused on increasing the vaccination rate among youths.
For the newly eligible 5-11-year-olds, 5,218 (6.7%) have received their first dose. Just about half of the state’s 12-17-year-olds are fully vaccinated (50.8%), according to the DPH’s vaccine tracker.
“We’re not where we want to be or where we need to be,” Dr. Rattay said. “That is the age group in our state right now that has the highest case rates of COVID. We’d really like to stop that spread.”
Currently in Delaware, those 65 years old and older, those who live in long-term care settings, those who have underlying medical conditions and those who work or live in high-risk settings are eligible for booster doses. Individuals who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine can receive a booster dose six months after their second dose of the two-dose vaccine series while those who received Johnson & Johnson are eligible two months after their dose of the single-dose vaccine. Mixing and matching of vaccines is now allowed as well, per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While other states have opened up boosters to all adults, Gov. Carney said he was going to wait for the full approval from CDC which may come as early as today.
“I’m a little cautious about getting ahead of the CDC,” Gov. Carney said. “One of the biggest challenges of the last 20 months is maintaining a level of trust within the public. We’ve always said consistently that we’re following the science and the experts. So I don’t want to get ahead of the experts.
Delaware is averaging 317.7 new cases of COVID-19 a day over the past week, according to DPH’s most recent data, which is the highest number since Oct. 23. The state’s seven-day rolling average for percentage of positive tests is up to 6.6% for the first time since Oct. 21.
COVID-19 hospitalizations are at 155. According to the state’s most recent data, 82% of last week’s hospitalizations were not fully vaccinated while 74% of new positive cases for the same week were also not fully vaccinated.
There have been 6,234 total breakthrough cases reported to DPH as of last Friday — 1.1% of fully vaccinated Delawareans. Of those breakthrough cases, 114 resulted in hospitalizations while 87 ended in death.
Dr. Rattay said a majority of those breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths occurred in seniors, which is why it is so important for them to receive booster doses.
“We’re entering into the holiday season, the cold-weather season where we expect our cases to go up,” Dr. Rattay said. “We’d love it if they don’t but we’re concerned they’ll go up. The booster is really effective in preventing infection as well as hospitalization and death. We’re promoting the booster, especially in our senior population. That’s the population where we have seen more breakthrough deaths and hospitalizations. The science shows their immune response decreases more quickly than younger individuals so that’s our highest priority for the booster.”
A list of vaccination sites can be found here.
COVID-19 statistics for Thursday’s update were unavailable due to a technical issue, DPH said.