At his weekly press briefing Feb. 2, Gov. John Carney said state health officials are geared up to administer much more COVID-19 vaccine than is currently being shipped to the state. Just over 107,000 doses have been allotted to Delaware so far.
“About 10 percent of the population has received at least one dose. That puts us in the top 10 of all states,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health (DPH).
However, she and the governor said, more outreach is needed to vaccinate more minorities. As of Feb. 1, state health officials and their partners had administered 103,791 COVID-19 vaccinations. Just 4 percent of those vaccinated are black, according to Delaware's vaccine tracker, and just 2 percent are Hispanic or Latino.
And on the 65+ vaccination waiting list – now at 100,000 seniors – only 7 percent are black and under 2 percent are Hispanic.
Rattay said the data is not complete. In 31 percent of vaccination records, race remains unreported.
Carney plans to announce steps this week to ensure that enrolled vaccination providers promptly report race and other demographic information to DPH.
Restaurants, stores will change to 50 percent
On Feb. 4, Gov. Carney issued the sixth modification to his state of emergency declaration, easing COVID-19 occupancy restrictions and requiring Delaware vaccination providers to report complete demographic information within 24 hours of administering a vaccine.
The modification also requires healthcare providers, pharmacies and other groups that provide vaccinations to offer shots free of charge, though insurance information may be collected.
Effective at 8 a.m., Friday, Feb. 12, occupancy inside restaurants, retail locations, gyms, houses of worship, arts venues and other business locations must not exceed 50 percent of stated fire capacity.
Under the modification, some occupancy numbers increased, while others decreased slightly.
Restaurant, gym and senior centers occupancy will increase from 30 percent to 50 percent capacity, while occupancy at retail stores, malls, personal care operations, casinos and pools will decrease from 60 percent to 50 percent.
In addition, high school athletes will now be given two tickets, up from one, for relatives to attend events. Businesses must continue to follow social distancing and other COVID-19 restrictions issued by local and state governments.
The modification also allows youth and amateur sports tournaments to resume with a plan approved by DPH. Delawareans who travel out of state for sports tournaments and competitions are strongly encouraged, though no longer required, to self-quarantine
Effective at 9 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 4, this modification strengthens a previous prohibition on price gouging. It also allows Delawareans to cast absentee ballots in 2021 municipal elections.
To see the modification, go to the state website.
Delaware is still in Phase 1B of its COVID-19 vaccination program. Delawareans aged 65+ and certain frontline workers are eligible for vaccinations. Learn more at de.gov/covidvaccine.
Second doses: First responders previously vaccinated by DPH will receive second doses in a series of events. The first of those events was held on Feb. 1 in Dover operated by Curative. Another six events will be held at first-responder facilities around the state between Feb. 3 and Feb. 18.
Partner events: Curative will vaccinate about 2,000 individuals at indoor events this week. All appointments have already been filled from outreach to the waiting list at vaccinerequest.delaware.gov. Curative appointments will be scheduled in Dover as well, with invitations made available to individuals registered on the waiting list. Health officials are looking to open a Curative location in Georgetown in the near future.
Enrolled pharmacies will receive an allocation of 4,000 doses this week, with a focus on pharmacies serving underserved communities.
Providers: Hospitals will receive about 4,000 doses this week to administer to 65+ Delawareans, as well as their own Phase 1A healthcare workers. Healthcare systems have also been asked to coordinate with underserved communities and faith-based communities to vaccinate vulnerable seniors.
Educators: The Delaware Department of Education is coordinating vaccinations for 1,200 educators and school staff this week.
Bill would extend to-go drinks, outdoor seating
A bill to continue outdoor seating and alcoholic drinks to-go at restaurants and bars for another year passed the House Jan. 27 and is headed to the Senate.
Sponsored by House Speaker Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, House Bill 1 would permit bars and restaurants to continue the sale of to-go alcoholic beverages and use extended outdoor seating until March 2022. The temporary provisions established last year are set to expire at the end of March.“The outdoor dining and to-go cocktails options have been extremely popular and have allowed restaurants and bars to serve patrons safely. These innovations are about to expire, but we are not on the other side of this crisis yet. This bill will give the hospitality industry another year of flexibility to keep their doors open,” Schwartzkopf said.
In 2019, restaurant and food industry jobs in Delaware totaled 50,800 but the state lost 66 percent of its food or drink establishment jobs between February and April 2020, making Delaware's deficit one of the highest in the nation, according to House Democratic Caucus statistics.
Food and drink establishments in Delaware lost more than $160 million in sales in April 2020 alone, according to House Democratic Caucus data, with the food service industry losing an estimated $700 million between March and July. Revenue from restaurant gross receipts last year dropped to less than half of 2019 receipts.