Carney to expand Del. vaccine eligibility to residents 16 and older; outdoor restrictions eased amid rise in cases

A jogger can be seen in the distance running in Wilmington

A jogger can be seen in the distance running in Wilmington on Thursday March 26, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

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Delaware is opening up coronavirus vaccination registration to all residents age 16 and above starting Tuesday, April 6, Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday.

Currently, only people age 50 and above, as well as those in certain businesses and younger people with moderate- and high-risk medical conditions, are eligible.

Residents can sign up online and will be eligible to be vaccinated at pharmacies, mass events like the ones held at Dover International Speedway, or at small community events. Medical providers will remain limited to vaccinating people ages 16 to 64 with underlying medical conditions.

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Carney is increasing registration access well before President Joe Biden’s nationwide target date of May 1, but he stressed that the number of appointments given will be dependent on available supplies, which continue to be limited, and prioritized by age and health. To that end, he urged residents to be patient once they get on the waiting list.

To date, about 3 in 10 Delawareans have been fully or partially vaccinated, state records show.

“Today’s announcement means that more Delawareans who want to be vaccinated will have the chance to find a shot,” Carney said in a statement, which touted the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and the one-dose version from Johnson & Johnson as being “extremely safe, and extremely effective against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.”

“I’d urge all Delawareans to take the first shot you’re offered. That’s how we’ll beat this virus, and get back to spending more time with friends and family.”

Outdoor rules eased as cases, hospitalizations rise

Carney is expanding vaccine eligibility as coronavirus cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations have risen significantly over the past two weeks.

The numbers:

  • The seven-day average of new daily cases was 285 on Monday, a 51% increase from March 16, just 13 days earlier.
  • Hospitalizations have risen from 83 on March 11 to 134 on Monday, a 61% increase.
  • The seven-day average of positivity rates rose from 3.7% on March 13 to 5.0% on Monday, a 35% increase.

Carney is also moving ahead with loosening restrictions on weddings, parties, sports events, and other outdoor activities starting Thursday, April 1, despite coronavirus metrics moving in a direction that concerns the governor and health experts.

“We know that gathering outdoors poses a lower risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission,” Carney said. “That’s why we’re comfortable easing certain outdoor restrictions as we head into spring.

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“But until we can get enough Delawareans fully vaccinated, keep following the basic, common-sense public health precautions. Wear a mask when you’re around others. Avoid large gatherings when possible. Get the COVID-19 vaccine when your number is called. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Stay vigilant.”

The current limit on outdoor gatherings is 50 people without written permission from the Division of Public Health to allow up to 250 people with proper safety protocols in place.

But under Carney’s new order, absent special permission:

  • Up to 150 people can gather outside in spaces with no fire capacity occupancy limits.
  • In outdoor venues with occupancy limits and more than 100,000 square feet of public space, the limit is 50% capacity.
  • In outdoor venues with occupancy limits and less than 100,000 square feet of public space, the limit is 75% of fire capacity.
  • There is no longer a two-spectator limit for participants in sporting events.
  • The state can allow another 1,000 surf fishing tags for the 2021 season. A total of 17,000 have already been issued.

Coronavirus restrictions for indoor spaces remain in place. Restaurants, bars, retail stores, gyms, churches, art venues, and other businesses cannot allow more than 50% capacity.

Carney said keep those indoor limits in place will help the recent surge abate and lead to a fuller opening sooner rather than later.

Public health director Dr. Karyl Rattay said it’s critical to be deliberate about reopening.

“We don’t want to see another peak, a third peak,’’ she said, citing earlier highs in cases, hospitalizations and positive rates last spring and in January. “That would be devastating to us.”

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