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Carney raises capacity limit to 50% as cases fall

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Gov. John Carney announced that businesses will be able to open to 50% of capacity, including restaurants, by Feb. 12. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

As Delaware’s COVID hospitalization and positive-case rate continues to drop and more people are getting vaccinated, Gov. John Carney announced Thursday morning that restaurants and businesses will be able to open to 50% capacity, effective 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 12.

Restaurants, retail locations, gyms, places of worship, arts venues, and other businesses must continue to follow social distancing and other COVID-19 restrictions issued by local and state governments as they open to half of their stated fire capacity.

“We are administering more vaccines each day, and we continue to see improvements in our COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations statewide. That’s good news, but it’s no reason to let our guard down,” Carney said in a press statement.

This will be the first time since November restaurants will be able to seat more than a third of its indoor floor space, and it comes just ahead of the Valentine’s Day weekend. 

Indoor dining was set back to 30% in hopes to stave off a spike in COVID-19 cases triggered by holiday gatherings. In early December, Carney issued a 10 p.m. curfew on restaurants and bars for several weeks and limited the capacity for other businesses to 30%.

Still, coronavirus cases in Delaware spiked throughout the holiday season. Delaware recorded 107 hospitalizations statewide on Nov. 7 and 198 new cases on Nov. 11. By Jan. 12, the state reported 474 hospitalizations, and officials saw high case numbers each day.

But those numbers are now falling, with hospitalizations standing at 332 and new cases at 227 on Feb. 3. The low case count may be due to testing sites being canceled due to the recent snowstorm, but vaccination efforts are also in full swing, with events and access to pharmacies expanded last month.

Delaware has administered 110,707 vaccine shots and has 21,068 shots left as of Thursday morning. 

“We need to make sure we’re distributing the vaccine equitably across our state. That is a priority. And we need to limit the community spread of this virus. We know what works,” Carney said. “Until we can vaccinate enough Delawareans, continue to wear a mask. Avoid gatherings. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s stay vigilant.”

Earlier this week, Carney touted that the state has vaccinated about 10% of the state’s population, but the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is now focusing on getting as many shots in arms as possible, rather than holding some back for the second dose to boost the effectiveness of the vaccine. 

Last week, DPH announced guidance that 42 days between shots would be acceptable if the recommended 21-day and 28-day intervals were not possible.

Carney also ordered that providers complete demographic information within 24 hours of administering a vaccine to the Delaware Immunization Information System (DelVAX). He also requires health care providers and pharmacies to offer the vaccine for free as well as following the eligibility criteria for the vaccine.

Failure to comply with data reporting requirements in Thursday’s order may result in fines for providers and reductions in vaccine allocation.

The latest order also allows youth and amateur sports tournaments to resume with a plan approved by DPH. Those who travel out of state for sports tournaments are no longer required to self-quarantine, but it is strongly encouraged. 

The order also strengthens a previous prohibition on price gouging and allows Delaware residents to cast absentee ballots in 2021 municipal elections.

By Katie Tabeling

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