Gov. John Carney announced Monday he will institute a mask mandate that requires Delaware residents to wear them in all public indoor settings
In a new revision to the State of Emergency declaration, he also extended the school mask requirement and will deploy more members of the Delaware National Guard to help with non-clinical operations in Delaware Hospitals.
All of that takes effect Tuesday a.m. and is in response to the skyrocketing number of hospitalizations — 784 on Saturday — in the wake of so many people testing positive for COVID-19, likely because of the Omicron variant. State officials previously have said that Delaware hospitals had about 450 places for those with COVID-19.
Christiana Hospital announced Monday that it would implement its Crisis Standards of Care protocol. That allows it to operate differently than normal and can include things such as changing staff requirements and expanding capability by doing things like suspending charting requirements or allowing nurses to take more patients than would normally be allowed.
It does not automatically mean rationing of care, but that can be an downstream option, say others familiar with the process.
“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,” Carney said in a press release.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Carney’s new mask mandate will include convenience stores, grocery stores, gyms, restaurants, bars, hair salons, malls and casinos, among other things.
Churches and other houses of worship are exempted from the mask requirement.
Both the public and school mask requirements apply to anyone kindergarten age and older. Children aged 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.
Masks are not required outdoors or while eating or drinking in restaurants and bars, but otherwise should be worn.
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.
Monday’s revision 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.
Also on Monday, deployed 70 additional members of the Delaware National Guard to assist with non-clinical operations inside Delaware hospitals statewide, beginning Tuesday.
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.
Roughly 110 members of the Guard – separate from the 70 members deployed on Monday – are training to serve as certified nursing assistants in health care settings statewide to take pressure off hospital systems.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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