Traffic was backed up more than a mile from the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Georgetown on Saturday, Jan. 23, with cars bumper to bumper, edging along a few feet at a time past a highway sign with the words “appointments only.”
Around 1 p.m., Coastal Point reported backups of more than half a mile, but Sussex County Councilman Doug Hudson Saturday evening said when he drove by around 5 p.m., the backup heading north was easily two miles from the DMV, all the way south to Pep-Up Inc., propane heating business.
Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, who was at the site about two hours on Saturday, observing and talking to the volunteers, said the high turnout was the result of “an absolute demand for that vaccine right now.”
“There are a lot of logistics and a lot of wrinkles that have to be ironed out. The only thing I can think of that compares is the turnout for the food bank in Georgetown,” he said.
Although there was a report that the delay was due to computer problems caused by frigid temperatures Saturday morning, Pettyjohn couldn’t confirm that, but said cars were in line before 8 a.m., when the event began.
“The queue was very full,” Pettyjohn said.
“As with anything new, there is going to be growing pains in getting things done. I think with Public Health working with DEMA (Delaware Emergency Management Agency) and DelDOT (Delaware Department of Transportation) and everybody getting better, we will see what works,” Pettyjohn said.
Linda Fentress of Berlin told Coastal Point her 87-year-old mother, who lives in Selbyville, had an appointment for noon Saturday, but didn’t receive her shot until 5 p.m., a situation she said was “a total mess” as she called on state officials to take responsibility for an elderly woman having to sit in a car for five hours.
“It should have been better organized," Fentress said.
"I filled out all of the registration for my mother online. Working with the Website was a nightmare. You do all of this paper work in anticipation so you can quickly go through the process, then the computers were down today. My sister, who took my mother for her vaccination, had to redo all of her paper work today. They are trying their best and hopefully will get more organized but today was just chaotic," she said.
There were reports of drivers trying to force their way in front of others. The event was scheduled to end at 4 p.m., but was still going on at 7 p.m.
Jon Starkey, who handles public relations for Gov. John Carney, told Coastal Point Saturday evening the governor’s office is “moving quickly to vaccinate as many Delawareans as possible, including more than 13,000 this weekend.”
“Delays in Delaware City and Georgetown did cause understandable frustration among Delawareans who had appointments to receive their vaccine today. Two things we’d ask: if you don’t have an appointment, please don’t come to the events. That is contributing to the delays. If you do have an appointment, please complete all of your paper work in the registration system before you arrive.
“Despite the issues and understandable frustration of today, we believe we’re making progress and will get better week by week,” Starkey said.
Gov. John Carney, during a virtual town hall meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19, said he was hopeful “an ordinary way of life” would resume in the near future, as more and more vaccinations are administered.
“People have been isolated. People have not been able to see their loved ones. We’re ready for this. We’re ready for this vaccine. I can assure you, as your governor who has just been sworn in, I am going to make this my priority,” he said. Carney took the oath for a second, four-year term on Tuesday.
“Our goal is to get as many Delawareans vaccinated as quickly and safely as possible. That’s how we’ll beat this virus, get back to normal and rebuild. The reality is that will take some time and some patience, so in the meantime, let’s do what works. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Avoid gatherings. Stay vigilant,” the governor said.