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Education

Gov. Carney announces vaccine mandate for First State educators

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Gov. John Carney announces a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all educators, staff, and volunteers in Delaware public and private schools.

The requirement will be formally issued by emergency regulation, and it takes effect on November 1.

Those not vaccinated by then will require weekly COVID-19 testing.

Education Secretary Susan Bunting says the mandate is to make sure the school year continues without any interruptions. 

"All in a way to create a safe environment for learning and to prevent disruptions to learning as our children experienced last year,” said Bunting.

Bunting adds the expectation is districts will implement a discipline policy for those who don’t comply with the mandate.

"That's going to be developed locally," she said. "They already have a policy in place of progressive discipline policy for handling whatever the infraction might be, and so this is another way that people who are going to be vaccinated or not will be following established procedure done by local education agency."

Gov. Carney says this will help his administration’s top priority of keeping kids in school and preventing disruptions to their learning.

"This is one way to keep everyone safe while the children and educators are in school for in-person instruction, and we have virtually every school district, every school in this state fully engaged with in-person instruction," Carney said.

Carney notes this will not only help students' educational needs, but also benefit their social and emotional health needs. 

The state's largest teachers' union, the Delaware State Education Association, is backing Carney's move, saying it believes it will help keep students and education safe and healthy - and in school.

"All scientific evidence shows us that this vaccine is effective and prevents the risk of transmission while lessening the symptoms if the disease is transmitted. So, we urge our members to get vaccinated,” said DSEA President Stephanie Ingram.  “We recognize that some educators still have concerns with the vaccine. For these members, the requirement of weekly testing is a reasonable alternative that will help provide a safe learning environment for all. While we know not everyone will agree with this decision, we believe that this allows us to safely keep children and educators in school while continuing to protect their health.”

From the start of the school through September 17, 518 students and 97 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in public schools statewide. The state has not provided data on private schools so far.

State Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay did say that school age children in Delaware ranging in age from 5-to-17 have the highest case rate of COVID-19 in the state. 

Meanwhile, 76.5% of those between 12 and 18 have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Delaware. 

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