Masks Required in Del. Schools Regardless of Vaccine Status

'There's no higher priority than getting all Delaware children back in their classrooms full-time this fall,' Gov. John Carney says while announcing new school mask mandate

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What to Know

  • Gov. John Carney is imposing a mask mandate for all public and private school students and staff in Delaware effective Monday, August 16.
  • The indoor mask mandate announced Tuesday applies to everyone kindergarten age or older, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
  • The mandate also extends to child care homes and centers for everyone kindergarten age and older.

Students will be returning to the classroom in Delaware wearing masks this fall.

On Tuesday, Gov. John Carney announced that masks would be required for all students, teachers and staff in schools and child care centers covering kindergarten to 12th grade.

The mask mandate, which is for all people vaccinated or not, goes into effect on Monday, Aug. 16. It covers public and private schools.

“There's no higher priority than getting all Delaware children back in their classrooms full-time this fall,” Carney, a Democrat, said in a news release. “This consistent, statewide approach will help students, educators and staff return to school safely and without disruption."

The statewide mask requirement in schools will be finalized this week to be consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, Delaware said. The CDC "recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status." The CDC also recommends layers of prevention strategies.

Children under 12 currently can't receive any of the available coronavirus vaccines.

Until younger children can get the vaccine, precautions in place in schools will help, Dr. Karyl Rattay, the director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said last week.

“We saw very little spread in our schools last year,” Rattay said last week. “Masks work. We know that they do.”

In Pennsylvania masking is being left up to the schools and districts, while New Jersey is requiring masks in schools.

The Delaware Republican Party called Carney's school mask mandate, "shortsighted."

"The Governor's requirement that students wear masks in public and private schools is shortsighted and misguided and fails to consider the negative physical and emotional impact being required to wear a mask has had on students throughout our state and this country," Delaware State Republican Party Chair Jane Brady said in a statement. "The decision should be made at the local school board level, where parents can have direct input into the decision."

"Parents are not opposed to wearing masks in the schools because they don’t care about the safety of their children," Brady continued. "They are opposed because they’ve seen directly and daily the impact wearing a mask has had on their child."

The Delaware GOP offered an alternative to masking in schools again this academic year -- calling on everyone who interacts with children to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested regularly.

Push for More People to Get Vaccinated

Carney continued Tuesday to urge everyone eligible for a vaccine to get one.

"Vaccination remains the best way to finally put an end to this pandemic," Carney said. "These COVID-19 vaccines are free, safe, and highly effective against COVID-19 infection and serious illness."

The state has a site to direct people to COVID-19 vaccines.

More than 70% of adults statewide have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but officials face a challenge with young adults between 18 and 34, Carney said last week. Only 46% of people in this age group are vaccinated. The group also has the highest case rate, Rattay said.

The more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus has become the predominant strain among sampled cases as infections rise again. In late June, Delaware’s daily COVID-19 cases were below 20 per day and the number of people hospitalized bottomed out at just under 20, Carney said. But in recent weeks those numbers rose again as the seven-day case average reached 136 last week, with 60 people hospitalized.

Extending Masking to Delaware State Facilities

Also starting Monday, all staff and visitors to any state facility must wear a mask indoors not matter their vaccine status, Carney said while noting CDC guidance.

"Additional requirements around vaccination and testing for state employees and others are expected to be announced in the coming days," the state said in its news release.

On Tuesday, Carney also extended the state's public health emergency to help with continuing COVID testing and vaccine efforts.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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