Gov. Carney won't commit to vaccine mandate, citing lack of infrastructure
Cases of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 are rising statewide.
But Gov. John Carney still won’t commit to mandating vaccines for state employees.
State health officials continue to push that the quickest and least painful way of getting out of this latest outbreak is getting more people vaccinated.
More and more states, cities and companies (including Christiana Care in Delaware) are implementing vaccine requirements for employees, or to simply participate in public life.
But in Delaware, Carney says there’s still barriers to a vaccine mandate, and right now, the state is looking at a targeted approach.
“Our focus will be on those groups where there’s the greatest amount of risk. Correctional facilities, Juvenile detention centers, health care facilities, places where state employees come in contact with the public where you don’t know whether folks are vaccinated or not,” said Carney.
Carney says verifying vaccination status has been a huge barrier to making any decisions about mandates. The State of New York created an app to verify vaccination and testing status.
Carney says that’s definitely something Delaware is examining. That kind of program is up to individual states, since president Biden rejected the idea of a national vaccine passport back in April.
A federal program would translate better for Delaware, where residents frequently travel to surrounding states, making a statewide system unreliable or ineffective.
Division of Public Health director Dr. Karyl Rattay agrees, she says a federal program would be better, but they’re currently looking at their options for a state system, including developing their own app.
The only state option right now is accessing your individual immunization records from DelVAX, the state immunization registry. Those records are the ones submitted to the state by your healthcare provider, so they might not always be accurate or even available.
The vaccination record card given to folks by the CDC has been used as a stand-in for a national vaccine passport, but those cards can be easily forged, and the Federal Trade Commission says they were never designed to be a long term solution.
Carney adds a mandate gets complicated by the nationwide labor shortage.
“One of the things we’ll hear as we look at this issue with respect to those who work in congregate settings — which as I said is something we’re gonna look at — is the reality of driving needed staff [away],” Carney said. “The biggest complaint I hear is they can’t find employees for the jobs that they have,”
Carney cites the correctional officers as an example. That’s one job where a vaccine mandate would be really effective, but the department is already having a hard time hiring new officers, and a mandate could make that more difficult.
And another layer is working out a mandate with state employees in unions, who may be part of a collective bargaining agreement.
Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.