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Delaware considering school mask requirements as cases rise

August 5, 2021 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware officials are considering mask requirements in schools as coronavirus cases rise again amid back-to-school planning, Gov. John Carney said at a briefing Thursday.

“The state of emergency declaration expired on July 13, so we’re looking at other emergency powers that the state has with respect to universal masking in schools,” he said, noting the fact that children under 12 cannot be vaccinated is an important consideration. “We need to do that and do that quickly and we will because the school districts are deciding how to proceed in their individual areas.”

To achieve the goals of safely bringing children back to classrooms full time this fall and keeping businesses open without restrictions, more people have to get vaccinated, he said.

“Those folks who are unvaccinated are prolonging the pandemic,” Carney said “They’re bringing us to a place where we have to reconsider mitigation efforts, particularly as we look to the fall to get all of our children back to school for in-person instruction, recognizing that children under 12 will not be eligible for vaccination.”

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More than 70% of adults statewide have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but officials face a challenge with young adults between 18 and 34, he said. Only 46% of people in this age group are vaccinated. The group also has the highest case rate, according to Dr. Karyl Rattay, the director of the Delaware Division of Public Health.

The more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus has become the predominant strain among sampled cases as infections rise again. In late June, Delaware’s coronavirus cases were below 20 per day and the number of people hospitalized bottomed out at just under 20, Carney said. But in recent weeks those numbers rose again as the seven-day case average reached 136 this week, with 60 people hospitalized.

Until younger children can get the vaccine, precautions in place in schools will help, Rattay said.

“We saw very little spread in our schools last year,” Rattay said. “Masks work. We know that they do.”