School closings still recommendation only

Hospitalizations, percent positives and number of new cases all up
December 8, 2020

Delaware's criteria for keeping schools open hit the red Dec. 7, but closing the facilities remains a recommendation only.

All three criteria used in planning scenarios for schools posted significant community spread levels – the highest level of community spread, in which school buildings should be closed and only remote learning used, according  the My Healthy Community website.

The latest weekly average of new COVID-19 cases was about 457 per 100,000 population; percentage of positive tests was 9.6 percent; and the average of daily hospitalizations was about 27.

In a press release Dec. 3, Gov. John Carney recommended schools close Dec. 14 for remote learning with a return to hybrid learning on Jan. 11. A red banner at the top of the My Healthy Community website reiterated the recommendation while noting, “Schools that do not currently face significant operational challenges may remain in hybrid learning.”

Cape Henlopen School District plans to continue its hybrid learning program, according to the district website.

Schools throughout the state have been operating with a combination of virtual and in-school classes under the hybrid model because two of the three indicators used by the state to determine COVID-19 spread were considered minimal-to-moderate.

“We know that schools are structured and relatively safe environments. That's thanks to the hard work of educators, students and staff who have been following the science, and keeping their communities healthy,” Carney said in a Dec. 5 statement. “But school leaders and educators face significant operational challenges as we see more community spread. If we pull together and follow the public health advice, we can get more children in classrooms, and get through this difficult winter.”

Although school closures remain a recommendation only, Carney took a definite stand on winter sports, prohibiting competitions from Dec. 14 through Jan. 11. Practices are allowed to continue under strict COVID-19 masking and social distancing guidelines.

The recommendation also does not apply to child care centers.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise, approaching levels not seen since last spring's lockdown. The number of hospitalizations reached 322 based on data posted Dec. 7 with 37 people in critical care. At peak levels last spring, the number of hospitalizations was 337.

Carney urges Delawareans to take the new increase in cases seriously.

“More than 300 Delawareans are currently in the hospital with COVID-19, and we are likely to soon pass our spring peak of 337 hospitalizations,” Carney said over the weekend. “We are facing a serious situation that promises only to get worse in the weeks ahead. Delaware’s healthcare workers continue to work day and night to treat the sick and protect lives – as they’ve done throughout this crisis.”

Carney's weekend statement followed a stay-at-home advisory issued Dec. 3, asking Delawareans to avoid gathering indoors with anyone outside their own household from Dec. 14 through Jan. 11. The advisory does not apply to Delawareans in workplaces, or those commuting to their places of work.

Carney and the Division of Public Health also instituted a universal mask mandate statewide, requiring Delawareans to wear a cloth face covering anytime they are indoors with anyone outside their immediate household. Delaware has had a public mask mandate since April 28, requiring Delawareans and visitors to wear a cloth face covering in public settings where social distancing is not possible. Any child age 2 or younger must not wear a face covering, due to the risk of suffocation, he said.

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