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New Indoor Mask Mandate Now In Effect In Delaware As Hospitals See Surge In COVID-19

WILMINGTON, Del. (CBS) -- Masks are back in Delaware. A new indoor mask mandate was reinstated Tuesday at 8 a.m.

Delaware Gov. John Carney says its sole purpose is to alleviate the strain on hospitals.

The mandate applies to all grocery stores, gyms, restaurants, bars, salons, casinos and shopping malls. But churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the new rule because of pending litigation.

People say they're willing to do it if it gets us back to normal.

"Just seeing the signs it feels like we're going back to day one," Janssen's Market manager Jess Alvarez said.

"Mask up" signs are plastered seemingly everywhere in Delaware -- letting customers know masks are once again required.

"It's been tough for us, but we're here and we just got to follow the rules and stuff," Alvarez said.

While Alvarez and her employees have been wearing masks since the start of the pandemic, customers weren't required to until Tuesday. It's a similar situation at "Whimsy," a gift shop in Greenville.

"We get some people who have mask fatigue, but by and large we ask people to put them on and they're good about it," Whimsy owner Janet Jornlin said. "We're not getting anybody that is commenting that it's stopping them from shopping,"

Shopper Dina Egoville said, "I think it's fine. We should do whatever we need to do to get this past us."

Gov. Carney resisted implementing this mask mandate.

The state's division of public health says the test positivity rate is nearly 30%, and their hospitals are operating overcapacity at 117%. Over 700 people are currently hospitalized with complications from COVID. Seventy percent of them are not fully vaccinated.

Seventy National Guard members have been deployed to help hospitals with non-clinical operations. But still, Gov. Carney -- who resisted the mask mandate -- says they learned from past surges and doesn't think additional restrictions like lockdowns and capacity limits will be necessary.

"Hindsight, of course, is 20/20. We've seen where we've been," Carney said. "It's a little uncertain where we're going but we think we've got the approaches, decompressing hospitals, focusing on testing, and getting those who aren't vaccinated, vaccinated."

The governor did not put a timeframe on how long this mandate will remain in place. He said they'll know if it is working if case counts and hospitalizations start to go down.

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