School mask mandate to be lifted Tuesday; courts on Wednesday

Charles MegginsonGovernment, Headlines

Gov. John Carney on Tuesday will lift his emergency order about schools and masks.

Gov. John Carney will end his school mask mandate Tuesday at 6 p.m.

To be specific: Masking will not be required in kindergarten-twelfth grade schools, on school buses, or in child care facilities after that time.

Carney’s lawyers in a Chancery Court hearing about masking requirements made the statement in court, and a press release quickly followed.

Delaware courts also will lift the current court order requiring face masks in all court facilities as of Wednesday morning for both court staff and members of the public, a different press release said.

Both Carney and the courts are reacting to a Friday Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement saying it was OK to drop mask requirements as the Omicron variation of COVID-19 continues to decline.

Carney had planned to life the school mask mandate March 31, saying that local districts needed time to decide how to handle masking. But the CDC’s

The Delaware Department of Education and the Division of Public Health have issued updated guidance to district and school leaders to aid response efforts following the expiration of the mask requirement.

Carney and the courts also said that vaccine or testing requirements for educators, state employees and courts staff will end. Schools and education requirements will end at 11:59 p.m. Monday. Courts testing immediately.

The courts, however, reserved the right to require testing whenever an employee was exhibiting signs of COVID-19 infection. The courts also will continue to ask any person who is experiencing COVID symptoms to stay away from court facilities until their symptoms clear or they receive a negative test.

“There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about where we’re headed,” Carney said in the press release. He noted that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically. “We are clearly moving into a new phase of this pandemic,” he said.

“Delawareans who want to continue wearing a mask – including children in our schools – should be supported and encouraged to do so, even as we move into this new phase,” he said. “We’ll also continue to encourage all eligible Delawareans to get up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations.”

When the State of Emergency is lifted Tuesday, a more narrow Public Health Emergency Order will be issued to replace a Public Health Emergency Order issued on July 12, 2021. This updated Public Health Emergency Order will allow hospitals and long-term care facilities continued flexibility to respond to cases of COVID-19.

Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. said in the court’s press release that its infectious disease medical expert, Dr. Alfred Bacon, agreed with the new federal guidance and thinks it is reasonable at this time to drop the indoor mask requirement and unvaccinated employee testing requirements, said Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr.

“Under the new CDC guidance, masking is no longer recommended in areas that are rated as either low and medium risk,” Seitz said in the press release. “New Castle County is rated low risk and Kent and Sussex counties are rated medium risk.”

Seitz also said people who are more comfortable continuing to wear a face mask should feel free to continue to do so.

“It is important to note that we will continue to monitor the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will not hesitate to change course if needed to protect everyone from serious illness,” Seitz said. “Thank you for your patience as we have navigated together this unprecedented public health crisis.”

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