FENWICK ISLAND – Ahead of the first phase of Delaware’s economic reopening, Gov. John Carney announced plans to open beaches, retail establishments this week, albeit with strict social distancing requirements.
Last week, Carney announced plans to lift restrictions on Delaware beaches and community pools starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22. And this week, the governor took additional steps by allowing retail establishments to open by appointment beginning May 20.
“This is another step forward in the rolling reopening of Delaware’s economy,” Carney said. “It’s our hope that these additional steps will safely bring some relief to Delaware businesses and workers who have made real financial sacrifices during this COVID-19 crisis. But as we reopen, Delawareans should stay vigilant. Keep your distance from others. Wear a face covering in public settings. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently. That’s how we’ll limit community spread of COVID-19 and get Delaware’s economy back going again.”
Retail establishments include clothing and shoe stores, used merchandise retailers and florists. Businesses may accept two appointments per half hour and must adhere to strict social distancing and cleaning guidelines.
Carney’s order this week also allows all Delaware food and drink establishments to apply with their local municipal and county jurisdictions to expand outdoor seating capacity. Plans for outdoor seating must consider local traffic patterns and noise ordinances and must clearly define boundaries to prevent beverages from being carried offsite. Applicants that hold a liquor license must also have their plans reviewed by the Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control prior to receiving approval. Applications will be available on May 22.
It should be noted that Delaware retailers and restaurants are scheduled to open indoor spaces at 30% of stated fire capacity during phase one of Delaware’s economic reopening, which begins June 1. However, additional interim steps announced this week will give businesses additional ways to safely expand their operations by appointment and outdoor accommodations.
Carney’s announcement on restaurants and retail establishments came less than a week after issuing a statement lifting restrictions on Delaware beaches and community pools beginning at 5 p.m. on May 22.
Strict social distancing and hygiene requirements will accompany the reopening of Delaware’s beaches. Beachgoers must maintain at least 6 feet of distance between themselves and anyone outside their households, and face coverings must be worn on the boardwalk and are encouraged on the beach. Community pools in Delaware may also reopen, but are limited to 20% of regular capacity.
“Summer at the beach and the pool is a huge part of life for so many Delawareans. As we ease our way into a new normal, we’re trying to find ways for Delawareans to enjoy the outdoors and the company of their families,” Carney said. “I want to be very clear to our friends who want to travel here from outside the state. While we hope one day soon to be able to welcome you to our beaches, that time has not yet come. We need to reopen Delaware in a controlled way that doesn’t put anyone at risk.”
Delaware’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travelers and ban on short-term rentals will remain in effect, according to the governor. Non-Delawareans who have been in Delaware for at least 14 days will be permitted to use the beaches.
“I cannot emphasize strongly enough that during this everyone must continue to keep a six-foot distance from others, and to wear face coverings when out, even when going to enjoy activities permitted under these limited re-opening conditions,” said Division of Public Health Director Karyl Rattay. “It’s incredibly important that everyone exercise common sense and follow the restrictions so we don’t have a re-resurgence in cases of COVID-19 and are forced to tighten them again.”
In March, Carney closed all Delaware beaches in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the governor’s executive order, the public was prohibited from accessing the beach except to exercise or walk their dogs where dogs are permitted. Some municipalities, however, chose to enact tighter restrictions.
Under Carney’s announcement last week, ice cream shops and trucks were also permitted to reopen for take-out and curbside pickup starting May 15.
“We’re all ready to get our economy going again, and to spend more time with our friends and loved ones,” Carney said. “Since Day 1 of this crisis, Delaware’s response to COVID-19 has been driven by the science. We can’t have a healthy, functioning economy again until our communities are healthy. There is good news. Delawareans have worked together, stayed home, and saved lives. Your actions have driven down cases and hospitalizations statewide. That will help us reopen Delaware’s economy safely in the coming weeks – while protecting the most vulnerable Delawareans.”