November 17, 2020
Gov. John Carney announced sharply lower indoor capacity figures for restaurants and gatherings but stopped short of early closings. The restrictions become effective at 8 a.m. on Monday.
The governor also announced that an additional $25 million for impacted businesses will be available under a state grant program.
The restrictions are as follows:
- Indoor gatherings in homes must be capped at no more than 10 people.
- Indoor gatherings outside of homes must be limited to 30 percent of the venue’s stated fire capacity, up to a cap of 50 people. This includes all events, such as weddings, funerals, services in houses of worship, performances, political gatherings, and events in public spaces including fire halls.
- Outdoor public gatherings are limited to 50 people. Up to 250 may be allowed with a plan approved by the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH).
- Restaurants must operate at no more than 30 percent of fire capacity indoors, with allowances for additional outdoor seating. The limit had been 60 percent.
- Barring Delaware youth sports organizations, teams and venues from hosting or participating in tournaments with out-of-state teams, effective at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, December 1. The order includes a provision prohibiting Delaware teams from traveling across states lines for tournaments.
Carney is expected to discuss the restrictions at a weekly coronavirus briefing today.
“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 736 Delawareans, have already lost their lives to this virus. Our focus must be on protecting lives.”
“We will also continue to support the Delaware families and small businesses who have been hardest hit by this crisis,” said Carney. “Let’s all do our part to slow the spread of Coivd-19. Wear a mask. Celebrate the holidays with immediate family only. Stay vigilant.”
State Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay, said a source of infections have been get-togethers at restaurants. In one case, most people in a party of 12 caught the virus.
“It’s not the fault of the restaurants,” Rattay said. However, she added that contact tracing in Delaware and elsewhere shows that restaurants are a risky setting since you cannot wear a mask while eating.
Based on a weekly review of publicly available data, the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) continues to recommend that K-12 public schools operate in a hybrid model with a mix of in-person and remote instruction.
“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, and exposure is primarily occurring in social settings outside of school,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, Director of the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH). “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.”
Governor Carney on Tuesday also announced an expansion of the DE Relief Grants program for businesses hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions.
The expansion will provide up to $25 million in additional relief for hundreds of businesses that have been disproportionately impacted. Qualifying businesses, including restaurants and taprooms, will receive double their original grant allocation.
The DE Relief Grants program – funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act – is providing more than $150 million in direct assistance to Delaware small businesses statewide. The application deadline is December 4, 2020, and can be found at delbiz.com/relief.
Carney warned last week that restrictions loom due to the rising number of cases of Covid-19.
Industry groups have been pressing for adequate notice of the changes.
Governors in the Northeast have met remotely to coordinate strategies and have been eying coordination of restrictions to avoid spillover effects.
Delaware saw an influx of Pennsylvanians in the early stages of the pandemic when the commonwealth’s state-owned liquor stores were suddenly closed, despite advisories from public health care experts that those businesses remain open.
Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey earlier announced that restaurants would close at 10 a.m. and not reopen until 5 p.m. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced restrictions on gatherings and reduced capacity limits at restaurants to 50 percent.
Philadelphia, which has seen a spike in cases, has gone further and ordered an end to indoor dining and gym visits.
There have been concerns that late-night gatherings at bars and restaurants could contribute to the virus’s spread. However, contact tracing efforts indicate that small gatherings are the biggest factor in the current surge cases.
Delaware is seeing upwards of 400 new cases of Covid-19 daily after numbers fell into the 100 range this summer. Hospitalizations have also moved well above 100.
Carney has felt pushback for not easing restrictions but this month won a decisive victory in the race for governor against a critic of his actions.
Carney has also faced criticism from the left for not leaving curbs in place for a longer period.