As Delaware expands restaurant capacity, businesses leaders get primer on COVID vaccine

Sandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester

Sandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, Pool)

Delaware’s coronavirus numbers are declining as the vaccine distribution presents what ChristianaCare CEO Janice Nevin calls the “proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.”

After peaking at nearly 500 hospitalizations in early January, 332 patients were being treated for coronavirus in Delaware hospitals as of Feb. 2. New hospital admissions were down to 36 on Tuesday, well below a high of 90 new patients per day on Jan. 8.

The trends are moving so well, Gov. John Carney announced plans to expand indoor dining capacity to 50% in his latest update to his emergency orders. As of 8 a.m. Friday Feb. 12, restaurants, bars, retail locations, gyms, houses of worship, arts venues, and other business locations can increase the number of customers inside.

With expanded capacity, more business leaders are asking state health officials what they need to do to get their workers vaccinated. Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay joined Nevin to answer some of those questions in a virtual seminar for members of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce Thursday morning.

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Even though the state ranks eighth in the nation for the percentage of population who have already been given the vaccine, Rattay said Delaware’s only received 130,000 doses. “When looking at the map, for phase 1A and phase 1B, to do two doses would be almost 600,000 doses of vaccine,” she said. “We’re grateful we have [130,000] doses of vaccine, as you can see, that’s about a fourth of what we need just to get through phase 1B.”

So as the state waits for more supply, workers who are further down on the priority list will have to wait a while longer. In the meantime, Rattay encouraged business leaders to reach out to the state via email at vaccineplanning@delaware.gov to access a survey about their business and the needs of employees.

While medical offices and hospitals are able to administer the vaccine themselves, the state will try to find partners for businesses to give out the vaccine when it’s appropriate for their workers. “We do a lot of ‘match-making,’ that’s what we see our role is now. We identify a particular workforce group and where they’re located, what are their specific needs, and we match-make them with vaccinators,” Rattay said.

Those matches could be made with a hospital, private health care provider, or even a local pharmacy.

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Dr. Michael Ybarra, Vice President of Medical Affairs & Strategic Alliances at PhRMA, advises employers to consider using an incentive program to get more of their workforce on board with getting their shot.

“Employers are doing everything they can to do more of a carrot approach as opposed to a stick approach,” Ybarra said. “There’s lots of ideas about ways you can incentivize folks to get the vaccine. I’ve even heard some companies are doing financial incentives and giving paid time off in order to go get it.”

ChristianaCare’s Janice Nevin said employers can encourage their workers to have confidence in the vaccine.

“The vaccines are safe, they are effective,” she said. “If you have the opportunity because you’re in one of the groups and get the chance to get the vaccine, please do so.”

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