Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday that the state will provide 125,000 KN95 masks to teachers and students in sixth grade and older.
This will be a one-time distribution, officials said, and will be provided to Delaware’s child cares, as well as public, private and parochial schools. The masks are being provided only to older students due to the physical size of the masks.
Delaware has no plans to provide masks to the larger population, despite other states doing so. Maryland announced last week that it will distribute 20 million N95 and KN95 masks to residents.
Carney, during his COVID-19 briefing, said mask distribution will focus on schools because the "highest priority" is to keep child learning in schools.
The state continues in its struggle against the latest COVID-19 surge, though there has been one recent bright spot. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations – an important metric that analyzes the spread of disease – has decreased five days in a row.
The percent of positive COVID-19 has also slightly decreased, hovering around 29%.
"The situation is not getting worse, which is a good thing," Carney said during the briefing. "It's getting a little bit better."
Last week, Carney reinstated the mask mandate for most indoor public places. A majority of hospitals also announced they were in crisis, forcing them to operate under guidelines that allow them to prioritize care and resources for patients.
Delaware has seen very little spread of COVID-19 in schools, which health officials attribute to the state's long-standing mask mandate for students and staff when inside school facilities.
But the rise of the omicron variant has led to some Delaware school districts struggling with staffing issues, as many employees have tested positive outside of school or have been exposed and required to quarantine. It has resulted in some districts going virtual at times due to the lack of staff.
State officials see this mask distribution as a way to "decrease the number of quarantines and offer as many days of in-person instruction as possible," according to a news release.
Schools and child care facilities will make these state-provided masks available to staff members on an as-needed or requested basis. Child care providers will need to pre-register for this distribution through a link provided by the Delaware Department of Education.
Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 256-2466 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @MereNewman.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Delaware announces 125K masks are coming for teachers, older students