CLAYMONT — Gov. John Carney jokingly winced in pain as he rolled up his sleeve to receive his flu vaccine Tuesday afternoon.
Sitting outside of a Walgreens in Claymont, Gov. Carney encouraged Delawareans to get the flu vaccine as well, to help attempt a repeat of last year’s successful flu season. With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, Gov. Carney said Delawareans should not forget about the flu.
“I don’t love getting shots,” Gov. Carney said. “But it’s a small thing to do to protect people around us.”
“As long as I can get the message out to people across our state that it’s a good thing to get a vaccination to prevent against COVID-19 and a flu vaccine, I’ll keep getting shots.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends receiving the flu vaccine by the end of October.
Flu season starts in October and can last until anywhere from March to May. The peak is usually by the end of February, according to the CDC, but sometimes that peak can last into March depending on the year.
Gov. Carney said Delaware’s flu vaccination rate is about on par with last year’s pace.
“I would have guessed that wouldn’t be the case with all the focus on COVID,” he said. “That tells me that people are paying attention and have the same concern as I do going into the winter season about being indoors with more contact and less restrictions. It’s a good thing that people are being more cautious and more careful.”
The Delaware Division of Public Health reported only one flu-related death and 11 cases of the flu for the 2020-2021 flu season after what it called a successful 2020 vaccination campaign. It was the lowest flu case total since DPH began tracking cases in 2004-2005, beating the previous mark of 267 from the 2011-2012 flu season.
For reference, 7,075 flu cases were reported to the DPH and 400 individuals ended up hospitalized with 11 deaths in the 2019-2020 flu season.
Gov. Carney said he is still concerned about this flu season and a potential uptick in COVID-19 cases as well. Last year there were still restrictions in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, such as capacity limits and a mask mandate, which may also help to explain the low flu rate.
“I am worried,” he said. “I’m worried about the surge we saw when the weather gets colder and people are inside more often. We don’t have as many of the protective measures as we did last winter and you saw the surge last winter. That was before people were getting vaccinated though and the science tells us it should be much better. That’s why we’re trying to get our vaccination numbers up.”
Delaware is averaging 413.1 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the last seven days. That number fluctuated between 450-475 for the latter part of September and early October.
The state’s seven-day rolling average for percentage of positive tests is at 8.1%, which is above the World Health Organization’s recommended mark of 5%. It is down however from where it was 30 days ago when it was 9.2%.
Gov. Carney said the state has not seen any spike of cases due to recent large events such as the Firefly Music Festival in Dover. Increased spread of the virus did occur when students moved back to college campuses, but Gov. Carney said that has leveled off although the state will be monitoring upcoming events such as homecoming at the University of Delaware and Delaware State University.
Delaware’s K-12 public schools have not been a big source of COVID-19 spread, Gov. Carney said, with 1,189 in-person contagious cases of the virus among the state’s estimated 141,040 students (0.8%).
Gov. Carney said he hopes the mask mandate in schools will also lessen the spread of the flu.
“I spend a fair amount of time in schools and the children are not the problem,” Gov. Carney said. “The problem gets to be when they’re not in structured environments. A lot of the flu transmission is around transmission among children. With schools having those mitigation measures in place, I think that’s a good thing.”