Issue 523 - August 10, 2021
Carney Administration Imposes Face Mask Mandates on Schools, Most State Employees
AUGUST 10, 2021 -- Governor John Carney today announced that all public and private school students, kindergarten through 12th grade, must wear face coverings indoors effective Monday, August 16.

The mandate, which will be formalized later this week as an emergency regulation, will apply regardless of vaccination status.

Child care centers and homes will also be included in the pending regulation. While not part of the new rule, the operators of both types of facilities are being "strongly encouraged" to require masking for any child in their care, 2 years of age and older. (Children younger than 2 years old should not wear masks due to risk of suffocation.)

The Carney administration's action is consistent with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 

“There's no higher priority than getting all Delaware children back in their classrooms full-time this fall,” Gov. Carney said. “This consistent, statewide approach will help students, educators and staff return to school safely and without disruption. Vaccination remains the best way to finally put an end to this pandemic."

At present, children younger than 12-years-old are ineligible for COVID-19 vaccinations.
State Employees & Visitors Required to Again Wear Masks
On Tuesday, the governor also said state employees and visitors to state facilities must wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status, starting Monday, August 16.

Additional requirements regarding vaccination and testing for state employees and others are expected to be announced in the coming days.
COVID-19 Policies Harming Delaware’s Children
By State Rep. Rich Collins
Why must our children continue to be hurt by our state’s misdirected COVID-19 policies?
As students prepare to head back to the classroom, our state will be forcing them to return wearing face masks. Governor John Carney on Tuesday (8/10) announced that all kindergarten through 12th grade students, in both private and public schools, must wear face coverings indoors as of Monday, August 16 – regardless of vaccination status.  I believe this intrusive act usurps local control and will potentially harm children, hobbling their ability to academically rebound after an 18-month forced exile from a traditional learning environment.
Children are at little risk from suffering any severe consequences from COVID-19. This is not a cavalier overstatement. It is a fact. Of the 1,835 instances where deaths in Delaware could be connected to COVID-19, only one involved a school-aged child (age 5 through 17). 
The disease is also not a serious health threat to teachers and other school staff, who were among the first eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccines. And, as Gov. Carney noted at his press briefing last Thursday, anyone can currently walk into a local pharmacy and receive a free vaccination. In fact, most adults have already done so. State health officials report that as of Monday, August 9, 73.7% of Delaware adults, and 71.6% of those 12 and older, have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
According to data from the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, the people most vulnerable to severe COVID-19 complications are among the best protected from it. About 97% of Delaware’s fatalities related to the coronavirus have occurred among those age 50 and above. More than 93% of senior citizens (65+) have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 86% are fully vaccinated. Among those people ages 50 through 64, 65% have been fully vaccinated and nearly 73% are partially inoculated. These percentages are actually a little higher than reported because the state data does not include Delawareans who were inoculated in other states. 
The COVID-19 vaccines are reportedly effectual against the Delta variant – the most common version of the virus being locally transmitted. While believed to be more contagious and transmittable than the original strain, a recent post from Yale Medicine indicates there is no scientific consensus that this variant is any more dangerous than the original form. In fact, while case rates have risen somewhat over the last two months, hospitalizations remain comparatively low and fatalities have been flat.
If the vaccines are as effective as advertised; if all school personnel and students (age 12 and over) have had ample opportunity to get inoculated; if unvaccinated minors face little risk from serious COVID-19 health impacts; why is the state again imposing its will on citizens by requiring school masking?
Consider that this is not just a simple matter of inconvenience. There are serious implications that could arise from forcing children to wear face masks in the classroom.
While pediatricians claim children can wear masks without consequences, many parents tell a different story. Some constituents say their children have difficulty breathing while using the devices, resulting in headaches and difficulty concentrating. Of course, these are antidotal accounts but shouldn’t the experiences of children and their parents be considered? Under the announced universal mask mandate these concerns have received no accommodation.
There is also a real possibility that children could inadvertently contaminate their face masks through careless handling, repeatedly inhaling bacteria and other things worse than anything they would be exposed to without it.
And there is the impact on learning – a process that has already been drastically damaged by the state’s COVID-19 disruption. 
As Seth Pollak, head of the Child Emotion Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, noted in a recently published column: “There are a lot of things that are really important for human communication. And human faces are definitely one of the most important of them.”
It is difficult enough for teachers to teach, and students to learn, without handicapping the process by further degrading interaction between the two.
Throughout the pandemic, the state has continued to lurch from one bad decision to another, often using questionable suppositions to support its choices. Small businesses were forced to close, while big box corporate retailers remained open. Hospitals were coerced to suspend life-saving screening, testing and other procedures to keep beds open for COVID patients that never arrived. Distance learning protocols were employed where teachers could not track student participation or even attendance. With this track record, why should we continue to have faith in executive branch decision-makers?
Face-masking and vaccination policies in public schools should be left to locally elected school officials and the parents to which they are accountable – not dictated by state officials.
New Initiative to Increase Availability of Medical Professionals

A new bipartisan bill signed into law yesterday (8/9) should help attract needed medical professionals to The First State.

The measure (House Bill 48, as amended) establishes the Health Care Provider Loan Repayment Program, which will award grants to qualifying clinicians of up to $50,000 annually. Total payments to any one recipient would max out at $200,000.

The program is an attempt to battle to a shortage of medical professionals that is being felt throughout the U.S. In a report issued last year, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projected that the nation will face a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033.  “The pandemic, which struck after the projections were completed, magnifies the need to address shortfalls in both primary care doctors and specialists,” the AAMC noted in a statement.

Nurses are also expected to be in high demand and short supply.

According to a report by the Duquesne University School of Nursing, the U.S. will need more than 200,000 new nurses each year until 2026 to fill new positions or replace retiring staffers.  “Though enrollment in nursing programs is increasing, it is not sufficient to meet demand," the reported noted. "This shortage is especially acute...for certified family nurse practitioners, who can provide primary care without a doctor’s direct supervision.”

Under the Delaware Health Care Provider Loan Repayment Program, hospitals, private practices, and other health care organizations may apply for grants on behalf of their qualifying workers. However, the law sets certain conditions. Such facilities must accept Medicare and Medicaid patients and hospitals submitting a grant application need to pledge a dollar-for-dollar match.

The grants are limited to the recruitment and retention of recently graduated new primary care providers.  Qualifying occupations include family medicine physicians, specialists, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants.

State Rep. Bryan Shupe (R-Milford South), one of the bill’s prime sponsors, says Delaware’s primary care shortfall crisis is causing long-term delays and service delivery gaps. “Our primary care doctors and their teams are the first line of defense in our health care system and the personal time they spend with their patients helps create healthier communities one family at a time,” he said.  “Investing in the future of our local doctors, through this public-private partnership, will set a precedent in focusing on our local communities and the health of our local families.  I am proud to join Rep. David Bentz (D-Newark, Christiana) on this legislation to advance health care access."

Delaware health insurers will contribute up to $1 million to initially establish the program.
New Law Gives Tax Break to Delawareans in Need

A bill signed into law Monday (8/9) provides more flexibility for using the Delaware Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a move that will help Delawareans with modest incomes.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) helps low to moderate-income workers get a tax break. Qualifying citizens can use the credit to reduce the taxes they owe or possibly increase the size of a refund.

The legislation (House Bill 16) cleared the General Assembly earlier this year without a dissenting vote. The bipartisan measure modifies the tax credit to allow recipients to choose between two different versions and select the option that is the most beneficial.

The implementation of the change will be slightly delayed to ensure that it can be properly integrated into the Division of Revenue’s modernized administration system, which is under development.

"I was proud to be a co-prime sponsor on this bipartisan legislation that encourages and rewards the working poor," said State Rep. Lyndon Yearick (R-Camden-Wyoming).

Rep. Yearick has been an outspoken proponent of enacting targeted tax cuts at a time when the state is enjoying record revenue surpluses. He is the prime sponsor of two additional measures, both of which are pending action in the General Assembly. The first, House Bill 172, would temporarily eliminate the state's portion of the realty transfer tax for certain first-time home buyers. The second bill, House Bill 158, seeks to create a $500 tax credit for low-income Delawareans.