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Carney to issue more business restrictions amid COVID surge

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Four days ahead of when the state’s stay-at-home advisory goes into effect, Gov. John Carney issued more restrictions on Thursday evening, including reducing indoor capacity in retail shops based on size and a 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants.

The executive order goes into effect on Dec. 14 at 8 a.m. with no clear end date specified, although the stay-at-home advisory lasts until Jan. 11 as a way to stem the winter COVID-19 resurgence.

Carney warned last week the state may see more restrictions as hospitalization numbers climb, and on Thursday, Delaware officials reported 349 hospitalizations and 645 new cases.

“These additional restrictions are intended to protect Delaware’s hospital capacity and protect lives this winter,” Carney said in a press statement. “Health care workers are on the job around the clock, caring for the sick. We all need to follow their lead and do our part to protect others. Don’t gather with anyone outside of your household. Any interaction is riskier when community spread is at current levels.”

The new restrictions limit businesses above 100,000 square feet to 20% stated fire capacity, while retail stores below 5,000 square feet are limited to 40% of stated fire capacity. All other businesses – including “most retail stores” and all restaurants – are limited to 30% capacity, or the same amount where the state started to reopen the economy.

Delaware restaurants will also have to contend with a 10 p.m. curfew, while elected officials in Baltimore and Pennsylvania opted to stop indoor dining this week. Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, within a day of taking the oath of office, closed outdoor dining as well.

In addition, indoor gatherings at businesses or indoor spaces open to the public must be limited to “the lesser of 30 percent of the venue’s stated fire capacity, or 10 people.”

Exercise classes at gyms are limited to 10 people and exercise machines must be spaced 10 feet apart. Churches and funeral services are also limited to 40% of capacity.

These restrictions do not apply to employees.

Carney also announced there would be a zero-tolerance enforcement policy for businesses during the stay-at-home advisory, which warns people not to gather indoors with people outside your immediate household.

A first violation of COVID-19 restrictions will result in an immediate civil fine. A second violation will result in closure, until the establishment submits a reopening plan approved by the Delaware Division of Public Health.

By Katie Tabeling

[email protected]

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