Gov. John Carney on Jan. 10 signed the first revision to his latest state of emergency, requiring masks to be worn in all indoor public settings.
The public mask mandate takes effect at 8 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 11, for indoor settings such as convenience stores, grocery stores, gyms, restaurants, bars, hair salons, malls and casinos.
Carney also announced plans to extend the school and child care facilities' mask requirements, and deployed additional members of the Delaware National Guard to assist with non-clinical operations inside Delaware hospitals.
“Our hospital systems are facing a crisis-level situation with record numbers of Delawareans seeking emergency care. We need all Delawareans in the fight as we face this winter surge of COVID-19 to make sure our hospitals are not overrun,” he said. “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.”
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. The extension will ensure that Delaware students can attend school in person without consistent disruptions. Monday’s revision to the state of emergency also eases state 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 and older, officials said. Children ages 2-5 are strongly encouraged to wear masks in public indoor settings, including schools and child care facilities. Children under 2 years old should not wear masks due to the risk of suffocation.
For now, officials said, masks are not required outdoors, and churches and other houses of worship are exempted from the mask requirement. Masks will be required in restaurants and bars, but not when eating or drinking, officials said.
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.
National guard deployed
Beginning Jan. 11, 70 additional members of the Delaware National Guard will be deployed to assist with nonclinical operations inside Delaware hospitals statewide.
In total, more than 300 members of the Delaware National Guard are assisting with COVID-19 response efforts, including support at vaccination and testing locations, help with PPE distribution, and hospital assistance. About 110 more guard members are training to serve as certified nursing assistants in healthcare settings statewide to take pressure off hospital systems, officials said.