Most Delawareans will no longer be required to wear a mask indoors starting on Friday, Gov. John Carney announced on Monday.
Students in kindergarten through 12th grade will still be required to wear a mask in public and private schools until at least March 31. Infection rates in schools have remained low throughout the course of the year, which health officials have attributed to its mask mandate.
The rule also will continue to apply to child care facilities.
The statewide school mask requirement is being extended to give parents time to get their children vaccinated, according to a Monday press release from Carney's office. After March 31, school districts will be able to adopt their own mask policies.
Delaware continues to have one of the lowest pediatric vaccination rates in the Northeast, specifically among younger children.
Many parents do not want their children vaccinated, which they attribute to the newness of the vaccine and the chance of unknown long-term health consequences. Public health experts say the vaccine is the best way to ward off the virus and its symptoms.
Some public buildings will still require masks beyond Friday's expiration. The mask mandate will continue in state executive branch buildings and all court buildings after Friday, according to spokespeople for Carney and the Delaware court system.
Positive COVID-19 cases have been rapidly declining this past month after they peaked at over 4,700 confirmed cases one day in early January. The seven-day average reached 3,300 cases per day this winter.
Delaware reported 266 COVID-19-related hospitalizations on Sunday, the lowest figures since early December. That is down from a peak of 759 hospitalizations reported on Jan. 12.
Many health systems are still operating in crisis mode as staffing issues persist.
On Jan. 11, Carney required residents to wear masks in places like convenience stores, grocery stores, gyms, restaurants, bars, hair salons, malls and casinos.
As of Friday, the state reported a seven-day average of about 502 confirmed cases.
A year ago, confirmed cases rarely peaked above 1,000 per day, and the seven-day average never hit 900, according to data published by the state Department of Health and Social Services.
While COVID-19 still poses a "risk of serious illness," particularly for the unvaccinated, people have the "tools to keep ourselves and each other safe," Carney said in the statement.
He said people should get vaccinated and get their booster and urged parents to get their children vaccinated.
"The best way to keep your child in school learning, and to prevent them from getting sick, is to get them vaccinated," Carney said.
Contact Sarah Gamard at firstname.lastname@example.org or (302) 324-2281. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Delaware Gov. John Carney to end universal mask mandate on Friday