Gov. Carney to lift emergency order July 13
WILMINGTON – After 460 days of living amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, a significant milestone is in sight as Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday that he intends to lift Delaware’s state of emergency order on July 13.
First signed on March 12, 2020, the day after the state announced its first COVID-19 case, the order has allowed Carney to set public restrictions to stem the tide of the virus. But on Tuesday, he cautioned that the state still had to make a final push to reach President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% of adults to receive at least one vaccine shot by Fourth of July.
“We have a lot of good news and a big challenge ahead of us to make sure we reach [that goal],” Carney said during his June 15 press conference. “We thought we were at a pretty good pace to meet that objective… but we’re about 13,000 Delawareans from meeting that goal, which is a bit of a stretch.”
As of Monday, June 14, 68.3% of Delaware adults had received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Those who are unvaccinated are still strongly encouraged to wear a mask in accordance with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
With the end of the emergency order comes the end of the mask mandate, which has been in effect since April 2020, but Carney said that businesses and other venues will have the ability to require customers to wear face masks. It will also end the governor’s ability to issue executive orders, such as business capacity, to stem the tide of the virus.
While Carney credits those restrictions with aiding the state’s response, the emergency order has become a point of political contention.
In Delaware, there is no provision to stop a governor from perpetually extending a state of emergency order, which also allows him to marshal Delaware’s National Guard units as needed. Republicans have chafed at the fact that Carney has continued to extend the order every 30 days for more than a year now without the input of lawmakers.
State Rep. Richard Collins (R-Millsboro) introduced a bill this year to require a governor to get approval from the General Assembly to extend an emergency order after 30 days. The bill was killed in committee, though, with Carney’s Democratic Party firmly in control of the legislature.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least half of all states have proposed limiting a governor’s emergency powers in some way. Notably, Pennsylvania voters approved a referendum last month to end Gov. Tom Wolf’s state of emergency and give the legislature greater veto power in future fights.
For now, businesses can look forward to the fact that they will face far fewer capacity and spacing restrictions with the order rescinded.
Carney noted that July 13 came toward the end of the 30-day cycle to extend the emergency order. But he also hoped it would give businesses enough time to react to the change and give the state enough time to best reach the 70% vaccine goal.
Delaware officials estimate that about 20% of the state’s population were firm in their stance of not getting a vaccine shot. To reach Biden’s goal, the state would need to administer 1,000 shots a day, which it is not hitting.
“Part of the challenge now is people think it’s over. People are saying, ‘It must be over, I don’t need to get vaccinated,’ when that’s not the case,” Carney said. “The [case] numbers are still small, and that person may be you. People are still dying. We don’t know the long-term effects yet. It’s just not a public health emergency, but it’s still critically important to take care of yourself and your loved ones.”
The Delaware Division of Public Health reported a seven-day average of 30 COVID-19 cases and a positivity rate of 1.4%. There are 34 people in the hospital, compared to the 29 people in the hospital come mid-August 2020. The highest hospitalization rate was in mid-January, with 474 patients.
The state reports 1,679 Delawareans died due to COVID-19 complications.
In particular, Carney stressed that young adults, between ages 18 and 35, need to get the vaccine. At least 91% of Delawareans aged 65 and older have received one dose, yet 40% of the state’s population between 18 and 35 have received a shot. The hope is that DE Wins – the state’s lottery program that gives people a chance to win money, Firefly tickets and limited edition license plates, and more if they are vaccinated before June 30 – may help convince some to get vaccinated.
“We need everyone, particularly our young adults, to step it up,” Carney said. “There’s no excuse for not having access to a vaccine today.”