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And they’re off! Phase 1 starts a ‘new normal’ in Delaware

Katie Tabeling

For many Delaware businesses, June 1 is the first time in 10 weeks that they are allowed to open their doors in the first phase of Gov. John Carney’s reopening plan.

While restrictions are eased to allow most businesses across the board 30% of capacity, it remains to be seen whether customers will come back after the stay-at-home order is officially lifted.

Specifically, this will be the reopening day for hotels, short-term rentals, retail establishments and sit-down service in restaurants. Across the board, customers and workers are still required to wear face masks and follow social distancing standards.

Stores are asked to mark off space for six feet apart to manage social distancing. Staggered shifts and rigorous disinfecting of shared items are highly encouraged by state officials.

Empty RestaurantAfter serving take-out for months, restaurants will be able take patrons from single households only on a reservation basis. Bar service and seating and common entertainment spaces (like dancefloors or pool tables) are still prohibited. Face masks are required to be worn except to eat or drink.

Steve “Monty” Montgomery is excited to reopen the Starboard restaurant, even in a “highly restricted way.” All restaurants tables and booths are required to be rearranged for social distancing standards, and patrons should expect to see single-use items like paper menus and condiments.

“It’s part of the process necessary not only to show [Carney] it can be done in a safe manner, but also we all need to focus on rebuilding trust with the consumer that restaurants have safe practices and you are safe to go out and eat,” he said.

Montgomery hoped that the first phase will be a stepping stone to what he hoped would follow to get to as “normal as they can be” for peak summer season.

“We understand the world will be a different place until a vaccine is found, approved and produced,” he said. “Restaurants across the board are being safe and getting creative in finding ways to bring our customers back and keep our doors open.”

Hotels can book guests at 30% capacity, but short-term rentals don’t follow the occupancy cap. Guest rooms in hotels should be disinfected between new guests and common areas should be cleaned every 15 minutes to two hours.

Carney allowed retailers curbside services, but this will be the first time they can open the brick-and-mortar store since March. State officials encourage retailers to set up hours for at-risk shoppers, and physical barriers and layout changes are required to ensure social distancing.

Retail staff is discouraged from using shared workstations and phones. But if it’s unavoidable, they must be cleaned after every use. Break rooms and common staff areas are closed, and meetings of more than 10 people is prohibited.

Museums, libraries and other arts and culture centers can re-open for the first time since mid-March, with 30% capacity. Self-guided tours are a must and no-touch entries and exits are strongly encouraged. State officials encourage the use of electronic aids, timed tickets, and online reservations to cut down on exchange of money or other reusable aids.

The Delaware Museum of Natural History in Wilmington has reopened its outdoor areas on Monday, but some areas the wildlife blind, are closed. The plan is to continue a robust schedule of online programing, and once the museum reopens, there will be a one-way walking path through galleries and no hands-on activities, said Jennifer Acord, DMNH Communication Director.

“Our commercial cleaning vendor has produced a video to teach staff on appropriate methods to disinfect common areas and workstations. We’ve worked with a small local business to create cloth masks for staff, including a dinosaur print for some of the masks,” Accord said.

Gift shops and other merchandise shops should maximize contactless payment and disinfect between each customer. For movie theaters, there must be a six-feet radius around customers from the same household.

For the first time since March, gyms and fitness centers are reopening, with exercise equipment spaced out and face masks required. The only time someone would not have to wear a face mask is if they were doing strenuous exercise where a mask interferes with breathing and is six feet apart from others.

Delaware officials “strongly discourage” using shared exercise equipment, but if used, it must be properly sanitized after use. Fitness classes can resume but are capped out under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. People should bring their own gym mats when possible.

YMCA exterior

The YMCA of Delaware Bear | Photo c/o YMCA Delaware

The YMCA of Delaware has reopened its nine gyms, and CEO Deborah Bagatta-Bowles said that in some ways the same activities will be offered. Classes will start up again, but only with 10 people per class, and studio rooms will be set up for those uncomfortable using the open floor.

“We rarely exceed the 30% on a normal day, and we’re planning on no-touch scans for membership and plexiglass at point of sale,” Bagatta-Bowles said. “We take this seriously. Some of our equipment will be roped off to maintain social distancing. We have a fogger machine that spreads disinfectant, and we’ll use it every night.”

Barbershops and hair salons were reopened earlier this month to “essential workers” only, but now can reopen to 30% capacity on a staggered basis. Customers can only visit on an appointment basis and must allot 15 minutes for cleaning between appointments. People who are waiting on their appointment are asked to wait in their car.

Casinos are required to come up with a facility-specific plan to adhere to social distancing. Table games are still off the table. Slot machines must be spaced out every eight feet and sanitized every 15 minutes to two hours. So far, racetracks are not permitted to have spectators.

Delaware Park cut down from 2,200 slot machines to 700 to meet social distancing requirements, according to Delaware Park Senior Vice President of racing and finance Kevin DeLucia.

Food service at the two in-house restaurants will run as take-out, with tables on the property spaced out where people can eat. Since the bar is closed, customers can order drinks from servers on the floor instead

The casino is taking additional precautions like installing ionic air purifier in the HVAC system, and a cash sanitizing system.
“We’ll be using something I call an ‘Easy-Bake Oven on steroids,’ and it uses UV light to disinfect cash every half hour,” DeLucia said.

In phase one, Realtors can hold open houses, with no more than 10 people at a time. The property must be sanitized after the open house ends.

The Delaware State Parks campgrounds are now reopening as well. But there’s room for “any public or private park and any outdoor recreational facility such as a zoo, miniature golf course, or batting cage and other similar activities not explicitly closed by the industry guidance” to reopen as well.

Contactless payment at these facilities should be maximized, and handwash or hand sanitizer should be readily available for customers.

-Katie Tabeling


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