Weeks ahead of the previous goal for opening vaccines to everyone, anyone 16 or older will be able to receive a vaccine through a pharmacy as of Tuesday, April 6.
Gov. John Carney had previously set a goal of May 1 for all eligible residents to register for the shot, but announced March 30 that vaccines will soon be available to all.
“We're making incredible, real progress getting vaccines into people's arms,” he said during his weekly press conference.
More than 30 percent of Delaware's population has received at least one shot, Carney said, and Sussex County is leading the vaccine effort statewide.
More than 25,000 people 50 and older have been vaccinated, including 5,000 who attended a mass vaccination event March 27 and 28 at Dover Downs, and 78 percent of the state's senior citizen population is now fully vaccinated, Carney said.
Starting April 6, all Delaware residents 16 and older will be able to receive a vaccine from a pharmacy, and at 10 a.m. the same day, the state will open its registration system so those 16 and older can sign up for upcoming state-run vaccination events.
Anyone with moderate- and high-risk medical conditions or disabilities can continue to receive vaccines from primary care doctors, specialty providers and hospital systems.
Dr. Karyl Rattay, Division of Public Health director, said only the two-shot Pfizer vaccine will be given to teens 16 and 17, because it's the only one that has been approved for that age group. The Johnson & Johnson and Moderna shots are approved for anyone 18 and older.
Over the past week, Delaware's positivity rate has ticked up a point from 4 percent to 5 percent, and hospitalizations have increased about 30 to 133, while new hospital admissions dropped to a monthly low of 22 and the number of new cases was flat over the past week.
“Variants may be driving a little bit of this increase that we are seeing,” Rattay said.
Over the past eight weeks, she said, DPH labs have detected 17 cases of the UK variant, 23 of a New York variant, one of the South African, and seven total for two different variants originating in California.
“We do expect that number to go up,” she said.
Outdoor venues expand
More people will be allowed to attend outdoor events, including youth sports, under new rules that began April 1.
“This does not allow untethered outdoor gatherings, but a move to recognize outdoor gathering is much less risky than indoor gatherings, and something we need to keep in mind as we all start moving around,” Carney said.
Outdoor gathering limits for venues that do not have fire occupancy restrictions will increase from 50 to 150 people, and the number of people allowed will be even higher for those with approved plans from DPH.
Events that fall under this category include outdoor weddings, funerals, concerts, parades, festivals, conventions, fundraisers, sporting events and fairs.
Gone is the two-spectator limit for sporting events to which high school sports had been held, but the number of spectators depends on the size of the venue. Total capacity includes athletes, coaches, and other staff and employees.
Outdoor venues with fire occupancy restrictions and more than 100,000 square feet of public space must limit occupancy to 50 percent of stated fire code capacity, according to the order.
Outdoor venues with fire occupancy restrictions and with less than 100,000 square feet of public space must limit occupancy to 75 percent of stated fire code capacity. In both cases, any outdoor event hosting more than 150 people must still have a COVID-19 mitigation plan approved by DPH.
Indoor events are still limited to 25 people or 50 percent of capacity, whichever is less. Food and drink establishments also remain at 50 percent of stated fire code occupancy limits, excluding employees.