[caption id="attachment_203722" align="alignright" width="337"] Jacob Owens Editor Delaware Business Times[/caption]
It was around this time a year ago that we began emerging from an eight-week COVID-19 hibernation of sorts, as Gov. John Carney instituted a phased reopening of the state’s economy.“Delawareans can’t let up. Even once we move into Phase 1 of reopening, we still need to maintain social distancing to avoid a dangerous rebound in COVID-19 cases,” Carney said at the time, encouraging residents to wash their hands, limit travel and not gather in large groups. “If we continue to follow public health guidelines, we have a real shot of getting Delaware moving again starting June 1.”Our weekslong closure of “non-essential” businesses spurred public awareness of a civic duty to help “flatten the curve” of the pandemic, reducing the spread of the virus, easing the strain on the health care system and, most importantly, saving lives.By June, our efforts had been successful. We had dropped from days in April where nearly one out of every two tested residents were positive for the virus to days in June where less than 3% of those tested were. Frankly, we had reasons to be excited that the short-term pain would lead to long-term gains. “Things might be normal by Fourth of July,” we naively thought.As outbreaks popped up, the national and local conversation became more divisive over the most basic health precautions, and restrictions returned, we knew that 2020 would be like a year unlike any in modern history. It served difficult lessons on personal responsibility and civic duty that sociologists will be studying for generations.Unfortunately, we’ve also lost nearly 1,200 more lives in Delaware since we reached that initial low point in June 2020. We survived a winter that saw positive cases balloon to record highs, but also the approval of vaccines that helped tamp down the virus’s spread.Today, we are in a much better place. The seven-day average for positive cases has fallen to around 45, the lowest rate in about a year.Nearly 403,000 people are fully vaccinated as of June 10, or about half of all people over the age of 12 currently eligible to receive a vaccine. According to the Delaware Division of Public Health, 92% of Delawareans 65 and older, the most vulnerable population, have received at least one dose. More than 82% of that group is fully vaccinated.Delaware is about 20,000 vaccinations away from achieving President Joe Biden’s goal of reaching 70% participation of those over 18 by July 4, but there is a reason for concern.As older Delawareans get vaccinated, the responsibility to reach that goal falls to the state’s younger populations, and specifically 18- to 34-year-olds, who have seen only 39% get vaccinated so far.“Why is that relevant? Because that means if you're in the group 18 to 34 and you're out to restaurants, bars and out in public, more people are not vaccinated than are vaccinated,” Carney noted in a recent press conference.To many of my younger peers, getting vaccinated may just seem like an inconvenience or an unnecessary step when “herd immunity” is on the horizon. Some have said they just don’t trust the science that developed a vaccine so rapidly or are concerned how it may affect their long-term health or the health of their children. I know others who were infected last year who simply believe the immunity from prior infection is good enough – unfortunately, that is not so.“The reality is that what we know about immunity after disease is that it looks like it may be temporary, it does wane over time, which could leave you at risk. So, whether or not you've had the COVID infection, make sure that you do get vaccinated,” advised Dr. Karyl Rattay, director for DPH.Getting vaccinated will also help protect you from the growing number of virus variants, or genetic copies of the drug that can continue to spread among the unvaccinated. Recent testing of cases found half of all positive cases in Delaware were positive for one of the strains like the UK, Brazil and India variants.While I sympathize that such health decisions can often feel like weighty ones of which I simply don’t know enough about, I have to trust the expertise and passion of our health care professionals. This is not new science, although mRNA is being used for the first time in a wide-scale way.Experts have been preparing for this day for many years and the scores of rigorous tests and reviews before and after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization have given me confidence in the vaccine. That’s why I got vaccinated several months ago, if not for just me than for my daughters, my friends, and my extended family. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated then I hope you consider doing so too.It’s the only way that we will be able to begin congregating more freely, celebrating more boisterously, and returning to some sense of normalcy.