Del. Judiciary Waiting Its Turn For Vaccine, Chief Justice Says

Collins J. Seitz Jr
Collins J. Seitz Jr
Delaware's chief justice said at a recent town hall that the First State's judiciary will ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are administered "quickly and efficiently" to its workers, but won't jump in line ahead of priority groups still being vaccinated.

During the judiciary's town hall earlier this month, Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. and infectious disease doctor Alfred Bacon III provided an update on the coronavirus vaccination outlook in Delaware, with the chief justice saying plans to vaccinate judiciary employees remain on hold for now.

"We've been working very closely, on a daily basis, with the Department of Public Health, and we've worked very hard ... to get in line with everyone else for vaccines," Justice Seitz said.

The chief justice said that vaccines are still being administered to people in "priority categories," including those in senior citizen homes, front-line workers, first responders and people over age 65.

"Until those ranks get worked down, the judiciary is in a holding pattern," Justice Seitz said. "We had hoped, early on, to start vaccinating people in the judiciary as early as late January and early February, but that's not going to occur obviously because these other priority groups are still getting their vaccinations first."

The chief justice said the judiciary will "be the first to tell everybody" when vaccination events at the courthouses will be held.

"In the interim, while we wait [for] word from DPH that vaccines are available to us, I strongly recommend that anyone who is in that over 65 category or falls within any other category that are currently being vaccinated go through the DPH and the state website to get yourself a place in line and get vaccinated at one of these statewide events," Justice Seitz said.

Although the state's vaccination program has now entered the phase that includes judges, attorneys and judiciary workers, the chief justice said the state is "pretty much still just trying to hit as many people in the 65 and over population right now."

"We're going to have to wait, we're going to have to be patient until some of these other high-risk groups get the vaccine first," the chief justice said.

The judiciary is in daily contact with state public health officials and is set up to administer the vaccine in each of its courthouses once it is available.

"It's frustrating to wait. It's hard to wait," Justice Seitz said. "I assure you we are doing everything we can to make sure that when the vaccine is available to us, we will make sure we administer it quickly and efficiently, but we're not going to jump the line. There are other people that, rightly so, come before us, and they're still working their way down those people."

When asked by Justice Seitz to speculate how things will go in Delaware in the coming months, Bacon said he hopes that more vaccines become available and a large population is vaccinated by early summer.

"My first hope is that the high-risk people are vaccinated and protected, and I think that hopefully is occurring now," Bacon said.

"I'm hoping, my own bias is, that [in] June we will see a significant return to, quote, normalcy," Bacon said.

"This is not the time to let your guard down. We are almost there. We are almost there," he said.

Delaware's courts are currently in the second phase of a four-step reopening plan, after having made it to the third step for a short time but having to revert back to more restricted access when coronavirus cases spiked again in the fall.

The courts adopted the phased reopening plan in June with a heavy emphasis on fever and health screening, cleaning, disinfecting and social distancing. The First State's court buildings were closed for routine public access in March under an emergency declaration driven by the local and global spread of COVID-19.

Teleconferences and other remote, audiovisual alternatives have been used extensively, with speedy trial guidelines modified and relaxation of requirements for oaths, affidavits or similar court filing obligations.

A courts' spokesperson said Thursday there is no information available as to how many state judiciary employees have already been vaccinated.

--Editing by Aaron Pelc.

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