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Gov. Carney issues stay-at-home advisory, recommends schools use virtual learning around holidays

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State of Delaware
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Gov. John Carney announced a stay-at-home advisory and universal indoor mask mandate starting later this month as the state sets records for new coronavirus cases.  He says he is still considering additional restrictions.

The state recommends schools “pause” in-person learning around the holidays, starting Dec. 14, and return to hybrid learning January 11.

Carney emphasized in a statement Thursday these are “still local decisions,” but that the pause would allow schools to plan for the second half of the school year. A number of districts responded Thursday night by announcing they will go fully remote starting this Monday, including Appoquinimink, Brandywine, Christina, Smyrna and Red Clay.

Carney wrote that there is “not really a public health reason” to close schools right now, and that he believes strongly students learn better in person.

“It’s clear to me that there are operational needs that make considering a brief pause a good idea,” Carney wrote. “School personnel are not immune to the effects of rising community spread, and as more school personnel are forced to quarantine, it becomes increasingly difficult for schools to operate.”

Carney said in his statement that the Division of Public Health will replace the school planning data dashboard with data "more specific and relevant to the public health conditions affecting schools" during the break. He also promised to meet with local teachers’ union leaders next week. 

Winter sports competitions will be prohibited between Dec. 14 and Jan. 11, although practices can continue.

The state advises Delawareans to avoid gathering indoors with anyone outside their households for that same period of almost a month around the holidays.

The advisory does not apply to workplaces or travel for work.

The state is also instituting a universal mask mandate during the time period for Delawareans who are around people outside their immediate household in any indoor space. A public mask mandate has been in place in Delaware since late April. 

Carney plans to formalize the advisory and mask mandate in a revision to his COVID-19 emergency order.

The state again shattered its single-day record for new COVID cases ahead of Carney's announcement Thursday.

Public health officials recorded 754 new cases Wednesday. The previous record—685 cases in a single day—was set Monday. Delaware’s rolling weekly average of new cases used to smooth out the data has consistently topped 500 in recent days. The state never recorded more than 500 in a single day this spring. 

And the 7-day percent of positive tests hit 8 for the first time Monday. If sustained, that measure could put two of the state’s three school reopening indicators in the “red” zone.

Hospitalizations are also rising sharply — but have not yet reached the level they peaked at this spring. More than eighty people were hospitalized for the virus in the past week — bringing the total to 277.

So far 779 Delawareans have died of the coronavirus.

This story has been updated. 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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