Delaware governor orders all students and teachers to mask up

Kindergarteners wear face masks while sitting in a classroom

Kindergarten students wear face masks and are seated at proper physical distancing spacing during a math lesson. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

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Delaware students and teachers will have to wear masks as they head back to school this fall under a new mandate issued by Gov. John Carney Tuesday morning.

The masking mandate applies to everyone at school, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated or not. The rule covers all Delaware public and private schools. Child care centers are “strongly encouraged” to require masks for children from 2 years old to kindergarten inside their facilities

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

Starting Monday, state workers and visitors to state buildings will again be required to wear masks while indoors. That requirement also applies to all, whether vaccinated or not.

A group of Republican state Senators weren’t happy with Carney’s order requiring masks at all schools. That group includes Gerald Hocker, Brian Pettyjohn, Colin Bonini, David Wilson, Dave Lawson, and Bryant Richardson.

“School districts should have the discretion to implement or remove such a policy. A district with little to no community spread should not be subjected to the same policy as one where the spread is high,” the senators said in a joint statement.

New Jersey has issued a statewide mask mandate for schools, while Pennsylvania has left it up to individual districts.

Carney said the statewide policy takes pressure off of the superintendents.

“I respect those who have a different view, but we thought it was best to have a statewide policy,” Carney said. “I think some of those districts would be in areas where vaccination rates are low and where the spread of the virus is a greater risk.”

The six senators who objected to Carney’s mask mandate represent central and southern Delaware, where vaccine rates have been lower and case rates have been higher.

Carney has also extended the public health emergency order he issued in mid-July as the broader state of emergency order in place since March 2020 expired.

These moves come as the number of COVID-19 cases in Delaware has steadily risen in recent weeks. The state is averaging 185 new cases every day, that’s 180% higher than it was near the end of July. More than 100 people are hospitalized for the virus as of Monday, about three times higher than just two weeks ago.

Last week, Carney said he would consider requiring some state workers to get vaccinated, but today’s order stops short of taking the step. The governor’s office says additional requirements for vaccinations and testing for state employees are expected to be announced in the coming days.

Earlier this month, Carney also recommended unvaccinated Delawareans to get tested weekly for the virus, and continued to urge residents to get vaccinated.

“Vaccination remains the best way to finally put an end to this pandemic. These COVID-19 vaccines are free, safe, and highly effective against COVID-19 infection and serious illness,” he said. “If you haven’t gotten your vaccine, consider it. Talk to your doctor and your friends who have received their shot. That’s how we’ll keep students in classrooms and keep moving forward.”

As of Monday, Aug. 9, 73.7% of Delaware adults, and 71.6% of those 12 and older, have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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