May Day will be more than International Workers’ Day this year as state officials aim to open vaccinations to every Delawarean over the age of 16.
“We're going to move from 50 and older to open it up on May 1 to everyone over the age of 16,” said Gov. John Carney during his March 16 press conference.
COVID-19 vaccines have not yet been approved for young people under age 16. On March 17, Delaware allowed people 50 and older to sign up for vaccinations at pharmacies – a significant move from the state's focus to vaccinate only those 65 and older.
Those under age 50 who have health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and COPD, and those who smoke, can also sign up for vaccines under the relaxed requirements.
Gone are the phases that had defined who gets the shot as the state moves to an age-based system.
“We really have to get out of the 1A, 1B and 1C perspective, and accelerate putting vaccines in people's arms across the state,” Carney said.
On March 23, the state will begin taking appointments for those 50 and older, and a mass vaccination event is planned for March 26-28 at Dover International Speedway.
“The age is the the easiest thing to get people in the door,” said AJ Schall, Delaware Emergency Management Agency director. “Once May 1 gets here, there is no more wait list, and we're going to get people through the door.”
At its peak, Delaware had about 136,000 people on a wait list for vaccines, which has been whittled down to about 50,000, said Dr. Karyl Rattay, Division of Public Health director.
The number remaining on the wait list could be less, she said, as officials work to remove names of people who have already received vaccines from other healthcare venues.
“It really has slowed down a lot. It's a good indication that individuals have taken advantage of vaccinations,” she said.
Carney said 20 percent of Delawareans, or 1 in 5, have had at least one shot. Of that, Rattay said, 67 percent of Delaware's senior citizens are fully or partially vaccinated, and 24 percent of those 16 and older have received a shot.
Carney said he is working on the next step of reopening the state's economy, which has been restricted for more than a year now, although he did not provide any details.
“We will be easing restrictions. We are looking at that now,” he said. “We're keeping in mind what's happening in states around us.”
Pennsylvania has lifted restrictions on restaurants and indoor and outdoor events, allowing 15 percent of maximum capacity for indoors and 20 percent for outdoor events regardless of venue size.
Maryland now allows indoor and outdoor venues and businesses to operate at 50 percent capacity.