Gov. John Carney on Delaware's vaccination success, plan to curb pandemic

Delaware is ahead of schedule with its vaccination efforts. The man behind the state's plan highlights how the First State got there and how it will proceed. Plus, author Kimberly Reed talks success and optimism in everyday life.

Video Transcript

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MATT O'DONNELL: Good morning, everyone. I'm Matt O'Donnell. It is Sunday, April 11, 2021. And thanks for joining us here on "Inside Story." Coming up a little bit later in the program I'm going to speak to a professional optimist about how to reset and get out of what she calls COVID "fear gear."

But first up, the state of Delaware became the first in the tri-states to offer the COVID vaccine to anyone above the age of 16 this week. It is a milestone that might have seemed unreachable for any state only months ago. Pennsylvania and New Jersey will drop their eligibility requirements to that broad age group in about a week on April 19.

And even as more and more vaccine becomes available and more people are getting the shots, health officials are worried about two things primarily. One, the spread of more contagious and possibly more dangerous variants of the virus like we've seen in Michigan, for instance. And two, complacency and a false sense of security. We have heard warnings of being too lax on wearing masks, keeping social distance, and washing our hands, opening the door to more cases and potentially that feared fourth surge.

It may have already begun, with Pennsylvania and Delaware among the 16 states seeing a rise in hospitalizations. Joining us on Inside story, Democratic Governor John Carney of Delaware, who just announced his state's vaccine age group expansion. This week he joins us from his office in Wilmington, Delaware. Governor Carney, thanks for joining us, and good to see you.

JOHN CARNEY: Great to be with you, Matt, to talk about what we're doing here in our state.

MATT O'DONNELL: Sure. Well let's go right into that, Governor. We know it's not a race, but Delaware was the first amongst the tri-state-- New Jersey and Pennsylvania-- to get to the 16-and-over age group. How were you able to make this decision ahead of Harrisburg and Trenton?

JOHN CARNEY: Yeah, first of all, let me say that throughout the pandemic throughout the last year, there's been tremendous communication and coordination among the three governors, Governor Wolf in Pennsylvania, Governor Murphy, and myself here in Delaware about the restrictions, mask wearing, all that kind of thing. We talk to one another all the time because of cross-border actions among our constituents.

Our goal for vaccinations has been fast and fair to get vaccines delivered to Delawareans, shots in there arm, in the week in which of those doses are received from the federal government. Each of our states have been dealing with a shortage of vaccines, higher demand for a limited number of vaccines. That equation has changed over the most recent weeks as vaccine supplies increase, which has enabled us to move and open the doors to more people, younger people, to get registered on our waiting list to get vaccinated.

Over 40% of Delawareans have received at least one dose. There are two vaccines that require two doses, and the Johnson & Johnson one dose full vaccination process. So we're over 40% there. Well over 80% of our seniors, those most vulnerable, have received one dose as well. We continue to work maybe on communities of color to make sure that they're getting vaccinated at the same rate of the general population. So we're making progress. We still have a lot of work to do.

MATT O'DONNELL: All throughout this, Governor, we've heard of people having so much trouble trying to schedule a vaccine appointment. But we heard from you and your state, and also from Governor Murphy in New Jersey, that appointments have been available and to just try and jump on. And so we are seeing this shift, possibly, of the supply and demand scale. And so when do you think we might run into some large problems when it comes to not only the vaccine-hesitant but also anti-vaxxers, and what do you think you're going to do about it?

JOHN CARNEY: Yeah. That's exactly right, Matt. You have it right on the money. We are moving from a period of intense scarcity and really intense demand to where we're having more available vaccines and available appointments. And the demand is starting to slack off with populations that don't feel as vulnerable to sickness, hospitalization, and a fatal case of COVID-19. And we think that we're going to get there pretty quickly in the next several weeks, and that's why we wanted to open it up.

What we were seeing, we run a big vaccination clinic at Dover Downs Speedway. It's just an hour from either end of our state. So we offer appointments to our waiting list for the spots that we have available. And we've seen over the last couple of weekends-- we run them on weekends-- that takes us longer to fill up the 10,000 or so vaccination slots that we have available.

And so increasingly, it takes more offers for those appointments to fill up those slots. We think that that's going to continue, and we'll get to the point pretty quickly, I think, Matt-- your point-- where we'll be searching out and prodding people to get vaccinated. We will run into those folks who are procrastinators, who are sitting on the fence, not really sure that they want to get it. We ask everyone who's been vaccinated, talk to your family members and your friends who haven't been, tell them about your experience, how positive it was, and remind them that in order to get back to a more normal way of life, we have to have a significant portion of our population vaccinated.

MATT O'DONNELL: Do you foresee having local lawmakers, members of your staff, going out to community centers, going out to churches, running ads on television to try and get some of these people who say, I am not getting the vaccine, to turn their tide?

JOHN CARNEY: Yes, I do see that. And we're actually doing that already. We did run some focus groups to suss out people's thinking. And we do run into-- for all kinds of different reasons-- that hesitancy about getting vaccinated. A lot of people, intense desire to get vaccinated because their anxiety and their vulnerability of being exposed without vaccinations drives that.

On the other side, folks that aren't too sure, they're pretty sure they're not going to get really sick, they don't like the idea of the uncertainty, the newness of the vaccine and that process. And so it takes a little bit longer to get to them. We have seen that they do listen to people that they trust, their family members. They are willing to listen to thoughtful messages about getting vaccinated. And so we'll continue to do that.

We see some of that hesitancy, particularly in communities of color, vulnerable communities that don't have a lot of mobility, seniors in those communities who might live in public housing or senior high rises, and we've got specific efforts to do outreach to take vaccines to them and to provide transportation to our larger clinics.

MATT O'DONNELL: We know, Governor, that you received your first dose of the Moderna vaccine at Dover International Speedway. We also know that you are in constant communication with the White House with what's going on in Washington. And so many of the people in Delaware and everywhere else, they want to know what the end game is. And we've heard so much about herd immunity and reaching 70%, 80%, or 90%, whatever it may be. What can you tell people about what is the end game? Where do we have to get to to get our lives back?

JOHN CARNEY: Yeah. First of all, the communication that we have with the White House task force, with Jeff Zients who heads that up for President Biden, is very helpful. And they're very open to problems that we're encountering. And every state is a little bit different. They have been making available vaccines to pharmacies at a rate greater than the previous administration with the hope and expectation that those pharmacies can move the vaccines quickly. We've had some issues with that here in Delaware and other states as well, but they've been receptive to our ideas for reallocating. So very helpful there.

That is the big question. When do we get to the new normal? And I'm not sure that the science is very clear on that. We do know that we'll have to get to a high percentage of our population vaccinated. Dr. Fauci and others have talked about 70% or more. As I said at the top, we right now have about 41% of Delawareans with at least one dose. We're more than halfway there on that measure.

But in the meantime, we've got our message, as you started at the top of the program, talking about the uptick in positive cases and hospitalizations. We have seen that in Delaware, as you pointed out, as well as in Pennsylvania. So our message to Delawareans is, stay the course a little bit longer. Wear the mask, lean into it. Avoid social gatherings. Be careful when you go inside to restaurants.

And we'll get through this. We'll get to the other side. We had peaked at almost 500 hospitalizations across our small state here. We went down under 100, and now we're back up to about 140. We're seeing positive cases tick up a little bit again, so we just need folks to lean in, wear those masks.

That's the most important thing that you can do, by the way. And we learned that-- one of the things that we have learned over the past year is to mostly to protect others and your family members and people you come in contact with, wear that mask. What's important is, this flu season was nothing compared to normal flu seasons, mostly because people were wearing masks as a result COVID-19.

MATT O'DONNELL: One more question real quick, Governor Carney. Joe Biden, he had his residence in Delaware. He attended the University of Delaware. He served in the Senate in Delaware for so many years. Now as president, he's been president for about three months now, have you seen a Biden effect in the first state?

JOHN CARNEY: Well the Biden effect that I've seen, just an enormous amount of proud in our favorite son. Both myself and my wife worked for then Senator Biden 30 years ago, so many of us know the family personally. Were just delighted that he's our president. We know what's in his heart. We know his focus on ordinary working families. And we know that he'll do his very best for the country.

He is president at a very difficult and challenging and divisive time. If anybody can lead us through that, we're convinced that our Delaware Joe Biden can.

MATT O'DONNELL: Governor John Carney from the state of Delaware, thanks for joining us, and continued luck on the pace of vaccinations there in the first state.

JOHN CARNEY: Thank you, Matt. And to all Delawareans and people in the region, keep wearing those masks. Be careful. We'll get through this together.

MATT O'DONNELL: Thank you, Governor.

JOHN CARNEY: Thanks Matt.

MATT O'DONNELL: You could call our next guest Mrs. Positivity. She is going to give us advice on how to get out of the COVID "fear gear," and start rolling downhill as normalcy becomes more of a thing of the present than the future. She is an award-winning international speaker, corporate trainer, cancer survivor, and author of the newly released book, "Optimists Always Win-- Moving From Defeat to Life's C-Suite." Introducing Philadelphia's own Kimberly S Reed. Kimberly, thanks for joining us on "Inside Story."

KIMBERLY S REED: Hello, Matt. Thank you so much for having me. I love it. I love it. Wow. I sound pretty amazing.

MATT O'DONNELL: Well, you are. You are. Let's start off by just asking a simple question. Why are we always putting money on optimists to win? Why do they always win?

KIMBERLY S REED: Optimists always win because, I will tell you, we see the positive in almost everything. But I will tell you, some people are positive by nature. Many of us learn optimism. Many of us learn optimism as well, for sure. But anyone can learn to be optimistic.

The trick is to find purpose in work, in life. When we work with purpose or live with purpose, we feel more fulfilled and better equipped to see the glass half full. See, many equate optimism with happiness, Matt. But while one can breed the other, they're really not the same thing. And I know you didn't expect me to say that.

See, while optimists are usually pegged as those who see the positive in every situation, right? But some people say that that's not true. Positive thinking doesn't mean that you ignore life's stressors because I don't. Because I've been through some things. But you just approach hardship in a more productive way.

MATT O'DONNELL: A-ha. OK. So you're releasing a YouTube series tomorrow, on Monday, called "21 Days of Optimism." And I also scanned through your book as well, and you have what you call 10 disgorgement eliminators. And I want to talk about the first one. That's what I have a question for.

KIMBERLY S REED: OK.

MATT O'DONNELL: It says, staying away from kryptonite, which is great if you're Superman or anyone else. But what if you feel like kryptonite keeps finding you? And what if you feel like every time you look in the rearview mirror, you see kryptonite as well?

KIMBERLY S REED: So I will tell you this, Matt. I usually tell people, I have people-- I just did a speech before you and I talked. And I was having the folks write down and think about the best possible outcomes for various areas of their lives, such as careers and/or friendships. Just because maybe you have been a pessimist for most of your life, for example, doesn't mean that you are destined to be a pessimist. In fact, there are many effective ways to adopt an optimistic mindset.

And to your point, when I talk about in the book staying away from your kryptonite, people are one of those things, as you just described. So you have to take a note of the company you keep. We all have those friends who are chronic complainers or gossipers or they are just people where everything is just toxic. And after spending a few hours with them, we find ourselves jumping on the Debbie Downer bandwagon.

And it's clear, negativity is contagious, which means it's time to add some optimists to your network. And that will diminish some of the kryptonite that I talk about in the book. Because you have to start noticing, Matt, who you spend time with on a daily basis. If you start connecting to people who are optimistic and grounded in life, you will start to be affected by their positive energy.

MATT O'DONNELL: Got it.

KIMBERLY S REED: And that's important.

MATT O'DONNELL: Kimberly, I got one more question for you if you have time. You talk a lot about--

KIMBERLY S REED: Yeah, of course.

MATT O'DONNELL: --how our natural tendency is to be mediocre. And I never really thought about that, but I guess it kind of makes sense. So why is that, and how do you break out of that mode?

KIMBERLY S REED: Well, I'll tell you, so it leads me back to what you talked about, about Monday, which we're so excited about. So I'm asking people, can you be optimistic for 21 days? Because there's power in our words. There's power in our thinking. And being who you are is your superpower.

So we're launching this new program, Matt, that is designed to re-energize those that are suffering from this pandemic fatigue and those that need to take their life out of this fear gear. And we're going to teach skills and assess necessary to tap into the power of optimism. So if you engage with us at www.optimistsalwayswinseries.com, we're going to go on a 21-day exploration into tools, tactics, and themes from the book, "Optimists Always Win."

And we're going to just really-- you're going to look at short videos. We're going to also hear from people around the world who have read the book. I've interviewed. Because we're going to keep everyone on track every morning with a daily dose of optimism.

Because you've got to continuously tap into that power because optimism is a trained behavior. And we're going to leverage each of the discouragement eliminators that I write about. So we're going to help people train their minds to be optimistic because we're going into 2021 with our power. And we're not going to be mediocre.

MATT O'DONNELL: I'm with you.

KIMBERLY S REED: You coming? You coming with me?

MATT O'DONNELL: I'm going. 21 days. Kimberly S. Reed, Thanks so much for joining us on "Inside Story," and thank you for your optimism because I think so many people need to see it and love to see it.

KIMBERLY S REED: Oh, thank you, Matt, so much for having me. And hey, we are walking together.

MATT O'DONNELL: Yes. Yes, we are. Kimberly, thanks. That's "Inside Story" for this week. I'm Matt O'Donnell. We'll see you next week. And I'll see you Monday morning on Action News. And I tell you what, I'll be positive for you. We'll see you then.

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