Carney to lift limits on beach rentals, hotels as Phase 1 nears
Governor John Carney said Tuesday that he’ll lift the ban on short-term rental units, allow hotels to operate at 30% capacity, and waive the mandatory 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travelers on June 1 as part of what he calls the rolling reopening” of Delaware’s economy.
During his regular Tuesday news conference, Carney compared the behavior of Memorial Day weekend visitors to Delaware beaches – including Rehoboth where the Governor said 80% to 85% were wearing masks on the boardwalk, use of plexiglass and signage by local businesses, and “good spacing on the beaches” — to the packed situation in Ocean City, Maryland, and elsewhere around the country.
“If it [had been] like that on the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach, we’d be having a different discussion today,” Carney said, noting that he received reports of only 86 out-of-state license plates.
Phase 1 of Delaware’s economic reopening is scheduled to begin on June 1, allowing retail establishments, restaurants and other businesses to open at 30 percent of stated fire capacity with social distancing requirements and other public health guidance in place.
Carney acknowledged that many downstate residents feel that he’s giving in to the demands of the business community while increasing public-health risks.
“Retailers stepped up” this weekend, he said. “I’m a referee of sorts, but we have two important imperatives and we can’t have one without the other.”
When asked how law enforcement and municipal officials will deal with the increased traffic, Gov. Carney said “constant positive educational reinforcement” will be needed to avoid what happened in Ocean City and the Ozarks. “Ambassadors are the way to go here.”
“This is good news,” said Beau Zebley, president of the Delaware Association of Realtors, which was one of the civic and trade organization to send letters asking Carney to accelerate the reopening. “I can stop stressing on the impact [of no short-term rentals}, which I’ve been doing for the past six weeks. He’s really not opening the floodgates, but the dynamics still need to play out.”
Zebley said owners will have lost a few weekends but can make it up the rest of the summer, even if some people decide to rebook in other places with fewer restrictions. The governor’s decision also addresses concerns that many property owners and leasing agents had about having to refund reservation payments and deposits made in January and February before the pandemic hit.
“Opening for leisure travel is a good step in the right direction and good news for the hotel industry,” said Bill Sullivan, a board member for the Delaware Hotel & Lodging Association, which met with Carney a few times over the past week and sent a letter of its own. “They’re now getting a date where people can book the vacations, make their plans, and schedule time off from work. The hotels can answer phones and book via computer. And we can now book for more than just business travel.”
Governor Carney also announced on Tuesday that outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people – including weddings and outdoor graduation ceremonies – will be permitted in Delaware beginning on June 1, with basic public health precautions in place to protect against spread of COVID-19.
Gatherings over 250 individuals are not permitted during Phase 1. However, organizers of planned outdoor large gatherings and events may apply to host a large gathering or event by submitting a plan to the Delaware Division of Small Business at least seven days prior to the event. The Delaware Department of Education will release guidance for outdoor graduations later today. The expansion of large outdoor gatherings does not apply to community pools enclosed by fences, although Dr. Karyl Rattay from DPH said guidance will be issued soon.
“We’re moving the dimmer switch up more brightly,” Carney said to close his Tuesday press conference, echoing a metaphor he’s been using of late to describe the reopening of the economy.