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Delaware children in kindergarten or older must now wear face coverings in school buildings and elsewhere in public, according to a new order from Gov. John Carney.
The governor also wants all pre-school children above the age of 2 to wear a mask in public.
The state won’t enforce child mask compliance but is urging parents to read and follow the guidance from the Division of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new policies are stricter than Carney had initially announced earlier this month when he said schools could open with a hybrid of in-class and remote learning. At that time only children in grade 4 and above were required to wear masks in school. Younger students were encouraged to do so, but it wasn’t mandatory.
Despite Carney’s decision to allow hybrid learning, almost all of Delaware’s 19 public school districts have decided to have online-only learning for the first six weeks. All have pushed back the scheduled Sept. 1 start of school until at least Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day.
Carney will officially amend the rules on kids and masks this week in an update to his State of Emergency order that has been in place since March 13 – two days after Delaware had its first case of the coronavirus.
Through Tuesday, the state has reported 16,962 cases of COVID-19 and 603 related deaths. An average of 72 cases have been reported daily in the last two weeks, state records show.
“The evidence could not be more clear that wearing face coverings is the best thing we can all do to keep our communities healthy,” Carney said in a news release. “I know masks can be uncomfortable at times for children and adults. But if we stay vigilant and work together, we’ll continue to make real progress against this virus.”
The governor stressed that children under the age of 2 should not wear a face covering due to the risk of suffocation.
Delaware public health director Dr. Karyl Rattay says Delaware is following new guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and that teachers wanted it.
“With all this together and knowing that a number of kids are going face to face back to school very soon, we felt it was pertinent to really help protect all kids and all teachers in these settings,’’ Rattay said Tuesday during Carney’s weekly coronavirus briefing.
Ratty predicts it won’t be as much of a hardship as some think.
“We’re seeing a lot of children, especially young children, comfortably and without worry, wearing face coverings,’’ she said. “They just really are able to tolerate them with no problem.”
Stephanie Ingram, president of the state teachers union, applauded Carney’s decision.
“We are pleased that everyone in our schools, students and staff, will be wearing masks when we head back into schools and childcare centers,” Ingram said. “We all know that wearing masks helps slow the spread of the virus, and we believe that this is the best decision for everyone.”