Delaware Gov. Carney signs indoor mask mandate

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WILMINGTON — Delawareans will be required to mask up once again in indoor public settings, per a revision to the State of Emergency declaration signed by Gov. John Carney on Monday.

The order goes into effect Tuesday at 8 a.m. and applies to convenience stores, grocery stores, gyms, restaurants, bars, hair salons, malls, casinos and other indoor public places. Churches and other houses of worship are exempted from this mask requirement. Masks are not required outdoors or while eating or drinking in restaurants and bars but should be worn otherwise in those establishments.

Delaware was under an indoor mask mandate for most of the latter half of 2020 and early 2021 before it was removed on May 22, 2021. The decision to reinstate it comes as the state is experiencing record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“Our hospital systems are facing a crisis-level situation with record numbers of Delawareans seeking emergency care,” Gov. Carney said in a statement. “We need all Delawareans in the fight as we face this winter surge of COVID-19 to make sure our hospitals are not overrun. I know we’re all exhausted by this pandemic. But at the level of hospitalizations we’re seeing, Delawareans who need emergency care might not be able to get it. That’s just a fact.

“It’s time for everyone to pitch in and do what works. Wear your mask indoors. Avoid gatherings or expect to get and spread COVID. Get your vaccine and, if eligible, get boosted. That’s how we’ll get through this surge without endangering more lives.”

Delaware is at an all-time high of 714 COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to the Division of Public Health’s most recent statistics, which reflect data as of Sunday at 6 p.m. The agency updated data for Saturday, which previously reported 784 hospitalizations, which DPH has now adjusted to 688 after receiving updated information for one of the state’s hospital systems.

Numerous hospitals entered Crisis Standard of Care protocols on Monday to address the “unprecedented demand for hospital and health care services,” including ChristianaCare, Bayhealth, TidalHealth Nanticoke and Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic-Saint Francis.

Gov. Carney also announced that the mask requirements in K-12 public and private schools and child care facilities, which had been set to expire in early February, will be extended. Gov. Carney’s office said the extension will ensure that students can attend school in person without continuous disruption.

Monday’s revision to the state of emergency also eases regulations to allow and incentivize recently retired educators to return to the classroom as substitute teachers in an effort to keep children in school.

Both the public and school mask requirements apply to anyone kindergarten age or older. Children ages 2-5 are strongly encouraged to wear masks in public indoor settings, including schools and child care facilities. Children under 2 should not wear masks due to the risk of suffocation.

Businesses responsible for indoor settings open to the public are encouraged to provide disposable masks to customers who don’t have them — and to post signage about the indoor mask requirement.

Gov. Carney also deployed 70 additional members of the Delaware National Guard on Monday to assist with nonclinical operations inside hospitals statewide, beginning today.

More than 300 DNG members are assisting with COVID-19 response efforts — including support at vaccination and testing locations, help with distribution of personal protective equipment and hospital assistance. Roughly 110 members of the Guard — separate from the 70 members deployed Monday — are training to serve as certified nursing assistants in health care settings statewide to take pressure off hospital systems.