As omicron rapidly fades, Carney weighs when to drop mask mandate

Cases, hospitalizations, and positivity rates have fallen precipitously over the last two weeks, but still are well above last January’s previous peak.

Delaware Gov. John Carney speaks to the press

File photo: Delaware Gov. John Carney. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Ask us about COVID-19: What questions do you have about the coronavirus and vaccines?

With the impact of COVID-19’s omicron variant now plummeting even faster than it skyrocketed in Delaware but still rampant, Gov. John Carney says he’s weighing when to drop the mask mandate he instituted two weeks ago.

The governor reiterated during his weekly coronavirus briefing Tuesday that he doesn’t want to keep the requirement for customers and employees to wear masks in stores and gyms and into restaurants and bars “one day longer” than necessary.

He said there’s no set benchmark to drop the rule, such as the number of patients hospitalized with COVID. Instead his decision will be based on the totality of circumstances in hospitals and workplaces, and the degree of community spread, he said. Most Delaware hospital leaders had sounded an alarm on Jan. 10, saying they were so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients that they substituted a “crisis” mode of care because they could no longer treat patients with “normal standards” of care.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“So we’ll continue to look at that hospital number and the conditions in the hospitals,’’ Carney said. “We have weekly calls with them.’’

Carney said those discussions will give him and public health officials a better update on what the conditions in the emergency rooms are, what the surge is looking like. “Then looking at the number of positive cases every day, the percent of positive tests that we’re doing, and then in the aggregate what we have.”

The numbers have been improving rapidly since Jan. 12.

The weekly average of new daily cases has dropped more than 50% from its record high this winter of 3,338, recorded on Jan. 12. It now stands at 1,643, which is still nearly twice what had been the previous peak of 846 last January.

Hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19, which had soared to 759 on Jan. 12, have dropped to 550 as of Monday. But it’s still above the previous peak of 474, also last January.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“We’re on the other side of that peak at the moment, hopefully permanently,’’ Carney said. “But we know there’s still a ton of spread.”

Carney said he has no plans to drop the school mask mandate, which has been in place the entire academic year.

The positivity rate, which reached 32% on Jan. 9, has dropped each day since and is now at 23.8%.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal