Delaware is moving backwards in its fight to get the novel coronavirus COVID-19 under control.
On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, Governor John Carney reintroduced some restrictions the First State had already moved beyond in light of rising new cases and daily average percentage increases.
“These are difficult decisions, but we face a difficult and challenging winter,” said Carney. “COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising in Delaware and across the country. Nearly 250,000 Americans, including 739 Delawareans, have already lost their lives to this virus. Our focus must be on protecting lives.”
The restrictions will take effect Monday, November 23rd at 8 a.m. include:
- Indoor residential gathers limited to 10 people.
- Indoor dining will require patrons keep their masks on until they are prepared to eat, not just until they are seated as had previously been the rule.
- Indoor, non-residential gatherings limited to 30% of a venue's stated fire capacity, or 50 people, whichever is lower. This included weddings, funerals, worship services, performances, political gatherings, and events at public spaces, including fire halls.
- Outdoor gatherings limited to 50 people, with up to 250 permitted pending plan preapproval from the Division of Public Health
- Restaurants are restricted to 30% capacity indoors, but maintain additional outdoor seating allowances.
- Youth sports teams are prohibited from participating in or hosting tournaments with out-of-state teams, or from crossing state lines for tournaments, effective Tuesday, December 1 at 8 a.m.
"That's kind of the point, the logic, behind a restriction of movement," Carney said. "That is to try to minimize the exposure that one person, one group, has with another, because that person may or may not have a COVID-19...We know we're coming into Thanksgiving, the implications of that. But we also know we want to not restrict the places of business--particularly hospitality and restaurants--for any longer period of time than need be."
He added that the new mask rule was because removing them during an experience is something unique to restaurants.
"We're going to require that there be table signs that ask diners to keep a mask on until they're ready to eat. That's the difference between restaurants and other indoor locations," Carney said. "That is because you take your mask off while you're eating, obviously. But you don't have to do that in other indoor venues. And so there's a distinction there, that's a really important one, because one of the things that we know is that masks are critically important and effective in preventing the spread of the virus."
The Delaware Restaurant Association's Carrie Leishman said she doesn't think they need to be restricted at all, and restaurants have proven their reliability in providing a safe experience for everyone.
"Delaware restaurants have led by example throughout the pandemic. They took extraordinary steps to protect the health and safety of not only their customers, but their employees as well," Leishman said. "People are COVID-weary out there and we sort of provide that safe haven for them to dine safely. So this has been a real setback for us and our employees, because you have to understand that hundreds--potentially thousands--of our workforce is going to end up on unemployment, right before the holidays. They don't have the safety net of the federal unemployment. And a lot of times, these restaurant workers are those in our society most vulnerable and those that have been most disproportionately affected by COVID."
While pointing out the efforts of her industry had been repeatedly lauded by Delaware officials to provide that safety for those working and consuming, and despite a recent settlement stating religious service couldn't be treated differently than other group organizations, Leishman pointed out it certainly felt to her like Delaware's restaurants were being treated differently than other groups.
She said they may even consider a legal avenue for respite.
"Everything's on the table," Leishman said. "I think the industry is really upset, knowing that they've had sort of this restriction, while we're adhering to all the guidelines and sanitation practices. We won't be able to have Thanksgiving, however, Black Friday's allowed to go on in big box stores and retail? It really is unbelievable...It's incredible to me, and it really just goes to show you that we've become the scapegoat, the easy person to blame, for all of these reflexive shutdowns and restrictions."
Schools can continue to remain open for the time being, but DPH Director Karyl Rattay said a hybrid model remained the best approach.
“Transmission of COVID-19 has been rare in Delaware schools because students, educators and staff are following the basic health guidelines and doing their part to keep children in classrooms. Exposure is primarily occurring in social settings outside of school,” Rattay said. “Let’s follow their lead and do what works. Wear a mask. Avoid the urge to gather socially with friends or extended family outside your household. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently. This is a difficult time for all Delawareans. Thank you for everything you’re doing. We’ll get through this.”
In the wake of new restrictions, DE Relief Grants Program was also extended for affected businesses. An influx of $25 million in additional CARES Act funding will be provided, and qualifying businesses like restaurants and taprooms will have their original grant amounts doubled.