The Governor’s 13th amendment to his State of Emergency was put to the test today as Delawareans were, for the first time, required to wear face coverings in public spaces with crowds.
An informal survey at two grocery stores and a pharmacy suggested that most Delawareans were happy to comply with the order.
Some who have been wearing their own masks for weeks said they wish the order requiring face masks had come sooner since new information from the CDC shows a more widespread transmission of COVID-19 by asymptomatic people.
Asymptomatic spread may be most predominant form
Delaware Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said at a COVID-19 press briefing today that information about the disease has evolved over time, requiring a new set of responses as more information is learned.
“Asymptomatic spread is so much more prevalent than we ever imagined. Some at CDC now think this is the most predominant form of spreading the virus. Face coverings can make a really big difference,” she said. Rattay added that there is a great deal of information on the internet showing easy ways to make your own face covering.
The order went into effect at 8 am today and applies only to people age 13 years and older.
When are masks required?
According to the order, face-coverings are required in these public locations:
• on public transportation, or a ride-sharing vehicle
• inside grocery stores, convenience stores, supermarkets, laundromats, and restaurants, both inside the business and when waiting in line outside
• while obtaining services at any healthcare provider, including veterinarians offices
• outdoor public areas — including state parks and golf courses — if maintaining social distancing of six (6) feet between individuals of different households is impracticable
• in any public area where you are feeling sick, coughing, or sneezing
Confusion about jogging or cycling outdoors in public parks
Dr. Rattay said today that people jogging or bicycle riding outdoors by themselves are not required to wear face masks.
However, a TSD reader told us that a park employee stopped a jogger in Newark today and asked her to put on a face covering.
Barbara Macklem picked up a few groceries at Super G today for her church. She wishes the order had gone into effect last month.
“I think this is a long time coming. I think we could have moved to this. Some weeks ago. I used to be a substitute teacher, so I know public health is really important. If the face masks and gloves had been rolled out to begin with, I think that would have made a step forward in protecting the community at large,” she said.
J.C. Drouyn and his friend wore their N95 masks to the grocery store today. They wish the requirement had been in place sooner. “We started wearing masks three weeks ago. There are lots of people pushing these carts in the grocery store, and we can’t even figure out how people get it,” he said.
Two women who asked that their names not be used both voiced concerns about use of the masks, saying they were each claustrophobic and that the measure was too-little, too late.
“I feel hot, uncomfortable … it makes me lightheaded,” said one of the women. “The primary reason I don’t like it is that I get claustrophobic, and I find it hard to breathe.”
“I do not believe that the state has the right to tell me I must wear a face mask or self-quarantine,” said one. “Everyone has jumped on the bandwagon making masks at home. But they are basically like breathing in CO2.”
One also added, “I think it’s stupid. We’re six weeks into this. And now they’re requiring face coverings?” I also hate being told that I have to have it on.”
“Actually, I’m okay with it. It’s protecting people,” said Denise Sheldon. “I have two older parents and then younger kids and you never know who a carrier is or what’s going to happen. So in order to get rid of it so we can get back to normal, we need to abide by the rules.” She’s been wearing masks for a couple of months. “It was a long time coming, and I wish it would have started sooner,” said Sheldon.
At today’s briefing, Rattay also alluded to the fact that people should consider getting used to wearing masks for another year or more.
“The reality is that this is going to be a way of life for us until a vaccine becomes available and when you are in any location where it’s hard to social distance,” she said.
Businesses scramble to purchase masks – some on the black market – before Friday deadline
The 13th modification to the State of emergency also has broad implications for businesses, which must stock up and supply masks to all of their employees who work in areas open to the general public and areas in which coming within 6 feet of other staff are likely.
Similarly, all restaurants must mandate that employees who interact with customers (including delivery personnel) must wear a face covering while working. The new rule starts this Friday, May 1 at 8 am.
This mandate has caused big concerns for restaurants with larger staffs. One restaurant in Little Italy told us with no supplies on the internet, they had to spend $500 for 200 disposable masks, which were purchased through a third party supplier.
In addressing this concern today Governor Carney said he “knew that initially there was a shortage of masks and other PPE for first responders and hospital workers, and we didn’t want to create any competition for those masks.”
He added, “This new requirement isn’t a medical-grade mask. But we do want to help employers to meet that obligation, including the state. It was something that we kept in mind for that.”
10,000 state employees will get tax-payer funded face coverings, restaurant workers will not
Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) Director A.J. Schall followed up by stating that the state has purchased 10,000 face coverings for state employees and that the state will be acquiring additional PPE for state employees. He did not address whether any of the orders placed will be shared with restaurants or businesses in the private sector.
A DEMA spokesperson later clarified that the only requirement for the thousands of Delaware restaurant workers across the state is cloth face coverings, “which are much easier to source as well as make.”
A DEMA spokesperson said, “There are patterns and even “no-sew” mask instructions posted on de.gov/coronavirus. That is the type of masks that that state has sourced for employees, and that is the type of mask that other employers should provide their employees as well,” said the spokesperson.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 50,000 people were employed by the restaurant industry, the largest small business employer in the state.