WILMINGTON — Gov. John Carney said he is remaining optimistic Delaware can reach 70% of its population vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4, but it’s going to come down to the wire.
“I think it’s going to be tight,” he said Tuesday at his weekly COVID-19 press briefing.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 69.1% of adult Delawareans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This number includes Delawareans vaccinated in other states as well as vaccinations done at Veterans Affairs and Dover Air Force Base who do not report their numbers to the Delaware Division of Public Health.
One facet of the pandemic which will end around the July 4 deadline will be Gov. Carney’s weekly COVID-19 press briefing. The governor said next Tuesday’s briefing will be the final one but the state will hold periodic press conferences as needed.
Gov. Carney said the decision to stop the weekly briefings was made due to Delaware’s lower COVID-19 case rates and the State of Emergency expiring on July 13.
“We didn’t think it was necessary to continue on a weekly basis,” Gov. Carney.
The DPH reported just 14 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Tuesday’s update, which is one of the lowest totals of the pandemic. The number of individuals hospitalized in Delaware with the virus is at 15 — the fewest since the DPH began reporting hospitalization data last April.
Delaware’s declining COVID-19 numbers have coincided with the warmer weather and an increase in vaccinations. However, Gov. Carney said the state is having a difficult time finding the final 0.9% to get them to the 70% due to waning demand for the vaccine.
“There are people out there we make available in the community, knocking on doors and we don’t get many takers,” Gov. Carney. “There’s still some that we’re able to coax to get the vaccine. We really don’t want to focus on the negative, focus on the positives and encourage people to make themselves available for the big raffles and to be part of the team that got over the goal line and pushed Delaware over 70%.”
Delaware’s vaccine incentive program, DE Wins!, runs through next week. The grand prize drawing for $302,000 and two low-digit Delaware license plates, which all vaccinated Delawareans are eligible for, will take place on June 30.
The state is also offering gift cards at vaccination sites and other weekly drawings for newly vaccinated individuals. A list of vaccination sites is available here.
Even after July 4, Gov. Carney said the state is not going to let up on vaccinations.
“It’s certainly not the end,” Gov. Carney said. “We’re going to focus on the younger, age-eligible children, looking forward to bringing students back for in-person instruction next fall. We really need to get those numbers up. But we’re also going to chip away at those adult populations.”
There have been 982,847 doses of the COVID-19 administered in Delaware so far, according to the DPH’s vaccine tracker as of Monday at 11:59 p.m.
Of those vaccinated in Delaware, which includes nonresidents who work in the state or receive their health care here, 42,442 were vaccinated with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Gov. Carney admitted Tuesday he expected the J&J vaccine would have a greater effect on increasing vaccinations due to its one-dose nature. The J&J rollout was hampered by an 11-day pause to investigate a blood clot issue and a mistake at a laboratory in Baltimore, which resulted in thousands of contaminated doses that could not be used.
“It was discouraging from my perspective,” Gov. Carney said. “It’s so much easier to do one dose. ... I looked at the numbers the other day and you would have thought the Johnson & Johnson numbers would have been higher than what they are. I think it could have made a difference.”
Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director, said the state still plans to use its remaining J&J doses, even recently accepting more from a neighboring state who declined its full allocation. The federal government extended the J&J expiration date and Dr. Rattay said, due to that Delaware will not have to throw any doses away.
“The Johnson & Johnson was the one vaccine we were concerned may expire but given the federal government extended the shelf life recently, we are in good shape,” Dr. Rattay said.
“Certainly we are going to try to continue to get those doses into arms and we are not ordering any additional doses at this time.”