State announces new Stay-at-Home advisory from Dec. 14 to Jan. 11

DOVER — As Delaware broke its record for new daily positive COVID-19 cases on Thursday, Gov. John Carney and the Delaware Division of Public Health announced a new stay-at-home advisory.

The advisory strongly advises all Delawareans to avoid gathering indoors with anyone outside their household from Dec. 14 through Jan. 11 “to interrupt the dangerous winter surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Delaware.”

This advisory does not apply to Delawareans in workplaces, and traveling to and from their places of work.

The news comes after the DPH reported 754 new positive cases of the virus, reflecting data as of Wednesday at 6 p.m. It is the first time new cases have been over 700 and broke the state’s previous high of 685, which was set Monday.

In addition to the stay-at-home advisory, Gov. Carney and the DPH are instituting a universal mask mandate statewide, requiring Delawareans to wear a cloth face covering anytime they are indoors with anyone outside their immediate household. Delaware has had a public mask mandate since April 28, requiring Delawareans and visitors to wear a cloth face covering in public settings where social distancing is not possible. Any child 2 years old or younger must not wear a face covering, due to the risk of suffocation.

“A vaccine is on the way but, make no mistake, we are facing the most difficult few months of this crisis,” Gov. Carney said in a statement. “I know we’re all tired of COVID-19 — but it’s not tired of us. We’re pleading with Delawareans to do the right thing. Wear a mask. It’s a simple sacrifice to protect others, and to make sure that Delaware’s children get an education. Do not gather with anyone outside your household. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.

Gov. Carney also recommended Delaware schools pause in-person learning beginning Dec. 14, transition to virtual learning through Jan. 8, and return to hybrid learning on Jan. 11. The hope is this will allow schools to plan operationally for the second half of the 2020-2021 school year.

Gov. Carney’s recommendation does not apply to child care centers. Schools that do not face significant operational challenges may remain in hybrid learning, with a mix of remote and in-person instruction.

The announcement was made on the same day Delaware’s percent-positive rate moved to the threshold which would close schools according to the state’s guidance.

The seven-day rolling average for percentage of positive tests rose by five-tenths of a percentage point compared to the previous day, up to 8%. The data for percentage of positive tests is as of Monday at 6 p.m. due to a two-day lag to account for the time delay between the date of the test and the date that DPH receives the test result.

If that stays above the 8% mark for the rest of the week, it would push Delaware’s recommended guidance for the reopening of schools into the “red” phase which would mean schools buildings close and operate via remote learning only.

The school criteria is updated weekly every Monday. Two of the three criteria would need to be red for the state’s guidance to shift into red. Currently the new case rate per 100,000 people is the only one in red and has been for five weeks. Both percentage of positive tests and average daily hospitalizations per 100,000 are in yellow as of the week of Nov. 21 to Nov. 27.

For the most recent day of available data on Monday, the statewide percentage of positive tests were 9.4% with 635 positives out of 6,754 tests processed. The three most recent daily percent positive rates have been 9.4%, 10.4% and 9.4%, which shows Delaware is on pace to be above 8% in next Monday’s update.

Local school districts were preparing the next steps after hearing the news late Thursday.

Lake Forest Superintendent Steven Lucas said the district would call an emergency board meeting for today at 3 p.m. to discuss how they should operate schools in light of Gov. Carney’s announcement. The district had previously planned to continue in-person classes.

Winter sports competitions will be prohibited from Dec. 14 to Jan. 11, but practices may continue under strict COVID-19 masking and social distancing guidelines. This regulation only affects winter sports.

The final game of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association’s fall high school sports season is the finals of the state football tournament, scheduled for the weekend of Dec. 18-19. All fall sports will be allowed to conclude their seasons.

“Per guidance received from the DPH, fall sport championships are permitted to continue during this time,” the DIAA said in a statement. “DIAA will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic developments in consultation with the Delaware Division of Public Health and Delaware Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. DIAA member schools are required to continue to follow the state’s order, DPH guidelines, DIAA’s regulations and their DPH approval facilities plan during this time.”

The state said the Delaware Department of Education will be meeting with educators and their district leadership or charter representatives to discuss any concerns or questions they may have. Educators may also share their experiences and feedback by sending an email to Educator.Feedback@doe.k12.de.us.

“We know that schools are structured and relatively safe environments,” Gov. Carney said. “That’s thanks to the hard work of educators, students and staff who have been following the science, and keeping their communities healthy. But school leaders and educators face significant operational challenges as we see more community spread. If we pull together and follow the public health advice, we can get more children in classrooms, and get through this difficult winter.”

State public health officials have said Delaware schools have not been a big source of community spread of the virus.

In a message posted on the state’s website, Gov. Carney said since September, 576 students and staff in public and private schools have tested positive for COVID-19, noting there are over 60,000 students participating in some form of in-person learning in Delaware.

“It’s a testament to the hard work of students, educators and staff that the number is so low,” Gov. Carney said. “And data from our epidemiologists shows that the vast majority of those 576 cases originated outside of the school building. So students are learning. And they are doing so safely. That’s thanks to our educators.”

The number of individuals in Delaware hospitals increased by four compared to the previous day’s data. It is now up to 277 – the highest it has been since May 12.

The DPH reported no new COVID-19-related deaths in Thursday’s report as that number remained at 779. The total number of positive cases in Delaware is now at 37,456.

Staff writer Brooke Schultz contributed to this story.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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