Delaware Public Health District (DPHD) Commissioner Shelia Hiddleson appeared before Delaware City Council on Monday to provide an update on the COVID-19 data in Delaware County, which continues to trend in an encouraging direction.
“We are very excited to say that we’re getting back to doing more regular things now,” Hiddleson told council. “On Feb. 4, I was able to bring almost everybody back to their regular jobs as our numbers started to come down.”
Hiddleson said there are 92 total patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday morning. In the city of Delaware, specifically, there have been 24 COVID-19 cases over the past seven days.
“Our numbers are looking really good,” Hiddleson said. “We are officially in ‘low’ community level, which is the first time we’ve been there in, gosh, I don’t even remember how long ago it was. Our hospitals are looking really good. This morning, we had 102 out of 698 ICU beds available. It’s very hard for me to remember the last time we were up there.”
Regarding vaccination rates within the city, Hiddleson said 74% of the population have at least started the vaccination process and 71% have completed the process. She added that an additional 38% have received some type of booster.
Hiddleson added that the “only thing of a little concern” has been an increase in cases resulting in hospitalization in those aged 18-29 and 40-49 over the last week. However, she also stated that the “numbers are not huge” but rather something to monitor.
Following Hiddleson’s update, City Manager Tom Homan applauded the work of the city task force that was created at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and included city staff, local schools and the DPHD.
“We’ve appreciated all of the efforts of Shelia and her staff, and the other partners that we’ve had,” Homan stated. “Last Thursday was, hopefully, our last meeting. We suspended the task force indefinitely and, hopefully, will not have to reestablish it any time soon. I just wanted to give a shout-out to Shelia and her staff and other partners for all of their work during this period. Your efforts were quite important, obviously, during this crisis we were going through.”
Councilwoman Lisa Keller joined in the expression of thanks shown to Hiddleson and the DPHD, commending Hiddleson for the vast data records kept throughout the pandemic.
“You have made available to the people of Delaware more data regarding COVID-19 than any other county that I have seen. That’s so appreciated,” Keller said.
Following her comments, Keller asked Hiddleson to address the disparity in cases of hospitalizations and deaths in those who have been vaccinated compared to unvaccinated in the monthly COVID-19 reports.
“When we looked at comparing monthly report to monthly report, what we started seeing was the percentages of vaccinated hospitalizations and deaths increasing,” Keller said. “At the last report, we were at about half and half for vaccinated and unvaccinated being hospitalized, and pretty close to being half and half for vaccinated and unvaccinated deaths.
“I was hoping you could address that because we still have some employers requiring boosters, and we still have educational institutions requiring their students to be vaccinated to come to school.”
Hiddleson responded by saying, “I think, obviously, with the more people vaccinated, the more we’re going to see vaccinated people also having illness. I think that’s one of the things that we talk about, that you can look at all the data —and there are many data points — but to point to one thing and say this is a true cause and effect is somewhat hard to do.
“But you are correct in that what we are starting to see is over the last three months, our hospitalized (cases) are at 52% who are unvaccinated and 48% are vaccinated. For our deaths, it’s a little more uneven but not like it was. We’re at 60% unvaccinated over these last three months and 40% vaccinated.”
Hiddleson went on to say that one of the data points she is starting to collect is whether or not those cases have received any booster shots, understanding that the effectiveness of the vaccines has started to wane “quicker than we would have liked.”
Keller urged any business owners and school institutions who still have vaccine mandates in place to reach out to Hiddleson for more information on the data related to vaccinated and unvaccinated cases and to consider policy changes as to not have a negative impact on community members.
“At the beginning, when we thought or we were told that vaccination would prevent infection, we found out that’s not necessarily (true),” Keller said. “Then we were told that it would prevent severe illness and death, and now we’re finding out that sometimes it does and maybe just as often it doesn’t. These mandates, when it’s people losing jobs or being prohibited from attending places, I’m not seeing much health justification there.”