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Delaware to allow limited reopening for business Friday; beaches still to come

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Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday that most retail businesses could reopen Friday in a limited fashion. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday that the state was taking “baby steps” into the state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, allowing some business to begin again starting Friday while the wait for beach days continues.

The loosened restrictions represent the first move by the state toward a broader reopening of businesses, coming 44 days after the governor required residents to remain at home unless doing an essential activity or job.

Most retail shops will be allowed to reopen at 8 a.m. Friday, but they can only allow curbside pickup of items. Businesses included under that provision are clothing stores, shoe stores, sporting goods, hobby shops, music stores, bookshops, department stores, tobacco and vape shops, office supply stores, gift stores, and used merchandise stores.

Jewelry stores will also be allowed to reopen by appointment only, and Carney directed the state Division of Small Business to consider the same for other similar retailers. Previously gun shops, furniture stores and car dealerships successfully appealed the state’s closure order to allow customer appointments.

Hair salons and barbershops will also be allowed to reopen, but they will only be allowed to serve essential workers. The stylists will also be required to limit appointments and sanitize frequently.

Carney’s order also allows golf courses to begin using carts again, provided that only one person ride in them and they are cleaned between customers. Drive-in movies will also be permitted, but patrons must remain in their vehicles.

The governor said in a Tuesday press conference that the interim steps were derived from feedback his administration has received from the various businesses. Notably, the administration has been hosting teleconference calls with business leader and the public at-large around the state in recent days.

Carney repeated Tuesday that he won’t advise fully reopening the state’s economy unless he feels that officials have the public health threat under control. Once that happens, restrictions will be gradually lifted to ensure a new spike in cases does not occur, he said. The state is adhering to guidance from the White House’s Opening Up America Again plan, which calls for 14-day declines in cases before new phases of reopening. A sense of normalcy likely won’t return until the second phase.

“Things are going to be different,” Carney said, noting social distancing and face masks will be commonplace for some time.

For now, Mike Quaranta, president of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, called the new allowances “a positive, first step.” 

“We believe that employers and employees have a solid understanding of what’s expected of them, and are prepared to make safe, durable and smart decisions. As more businesses reopen, employees return to work and customers become more active, Delaware’s business leaders will do their part to manage these realities responsibly,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Bob Older, president and CEO of the Delaware Small Business Chamber, said the measures were a start but “nowhere near where we need to be or where we should be already.” He explained that curbside service would not be enough to jumpstart most small businesses and he questioned why hair salons could reopen but not nail salons, and why the changes weren’t effective for several days instead of immediately.

State officials often reasoned that the business restrictions were necessary to prevent an overwhelming surge of cases at hospitals, but Older noted that has never materialized. Hospitalizations have occurred at nearly half the rate than officials once prepared for. Older argued that small businesses should be allowed to reopen to customers under heightened safety precautions and at perhaps lower capacities.

“We’re just not doing enough,” he said. “There’s a lot of concern that businesses won’t survive.”

Meanwhile Carney called the decision on when to reopen Delaware’s beaches “probably the toughest decision we have coming up.” The mayor and city council of Ocean City, Md., surprisingly announced Monday that it would reopen its boardwalk and beaches May 9.

Carney said that he had hoped to coordinate reopening of beaches with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, but the local officials made their own decision. It’s unclear how much input Hogan had in the city’s decision, as Maryland still has a stay-at-home order in place.

The Association of Coastal Towns in Delaware recently wrote a letter to Carney noting the need for a consistent plan, as each Delaware beach town is different. Carney noted that Fenwick Island, which borders Ocean City, would be particularly affected by changes in Maryland.

He noted that his executive order did not prohibit walking on the beach or surf fishing by individuals – local officials in Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach did close their beaches and boardwalks though – but he conceded that most visitors would be looking to sunbathe and enjoy the ocean as the weather warms. As to when that might be allowed, Carney indicated that Memorial Day might be the best bet.

“I think looking toward the end of the month would be kind of the best estimate of when that might occur,” he said.

By Jacob Owens


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  1. Avatar photo
    wendy lee May 7, 2020

    There are those persons “essential employees” that are giving their personal letters to others to come and stay at our property. Opening up any other areas how do you really thing that those committing fraud now, will really listen to NOT ITS NOT OPEN, NOT YOU CAN NOT GO, much less have and use their valid letters for work purposes only. Its going to get real crazy and the virus out breaks have not even leveled off yet and people are going to think of this as a free for all.

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    Peggy May 7, 2020

    Curb side for shoe stores! How in the world can you do that. Bring a bunch of shoes to curb side so You can try on. I don’t know anyone that can sit on a crub and try on shoes. How many styles and colors are they going to be willing to bring out. CRAZY
    No thought was given here.

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    Chanthea sin May 8, 2020

    When nails salons can reopen?
    Today was a lots peoples concerns salons can reopen.

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    Laura May 9, 2020

    I want to come from out-of-state in June, already postponed from May. Will the police stop me for out of state plates in June? No one is going to come to Delaware from out of state if they have to quarantine themselves in a hotel room for 14 days. I just don’t see anything addressing future out of state travel to Delaware (not just its beaches). I spend my days in the wildlife refuge or taking barn photos from my car. Travel dates are based on seasonal wildlife patterns so postponing again is out. With the exception of hotel check in/check out, food delivery/take out or fast food drive thru and gasoline, I don’t come in contact with other people. If those are an issue, I’d bring food with me and pay for gas at the pump with a credit card to avoid contact. My county has only 5 current CV 19 cases and has had only 1 death. I wear a mask and gloves when I go out here. I rely on this website for current information regarding out of state travel since the hotel industry is primarily involved. The State Trooper’s website hasn’t been updated since April 2.

  5. Avatar photo
    Maria Valentine May 11, 2020



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