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Rehoboth rescinds rules requiring face masks on beach


Beachgoers at Rehoboth Beach will no longer have to wear a face mask while on the beach, but will still be required to cover their faces while in public areas and businesses. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

REHOBOTH BEACH — After outcry from city business leaders, the Rehoboth Beach commissioners voted Tuesday to immediately rescind a mandate to wear face masks on the beach.

However, visitors are still required to cover their faces in all other public areas, like sidewalks, the Boardwalk and inside businesses. Masks are required while entering and leaving the beach but can be taken off if in the water or social distancing is possible. Those who are exercising are also not required to cover their faces.

Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns compared wearing a mask to caring for others in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing that it’s also successful in stopping the spread of the virus.

“[Wearing a mask] works for individuals, but more importantly for communities: Wear a mask for the people you want to protect, wear a mask for the businesses you want to see open,” Kuhns said in a press statement. “Wearing a mask to protect ourselves and others is the right thing to do. Let’s show our commitment to our community and small businesses by masking up for each other.”

Rehoboth Beach officials walked back the mask mandate one day after the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter that decried its effects on the local economy.

Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carol Everhart was pleased with the decision but said that the business community paid the price.

“When that mandate came down, it was like a light switch,” Everhart told the Delaware Business Times. “In accommodations alone, it was a loss of $833,000 in cancellations, and of course that influences other businesses as well. The hardest hit was the downtown area.”

After enduring Memorial Day weekend under 60% occupancy and other restrictions and Gov. John Carney’s rapid order to remove bar seating ahead of Fourth of July, tourism has been relatively sparse, Everhart said.

“It’s not as heavy traffic in downtown as it was compared to along the highway, although some of those people seem to be driving through to other locations. Probably Ocean City [Maryland], and maybe to other Delaware beaches without it,” she said.

However, she did note that Kuhns and the commissioners were in a difficult position to weigh public safety concerns against the economy.

“They have to represent everyone and are concerned with everyone’s safety at this point, so it’s not easy,” Everhart said. “Businesses, we will continue to persevere. It is possible to have a safe and fun summer.”

In his weekly press conference, Gov. John Carney hoped that Delaware was nearing the end of the uptick in cases in the beach towns and was pleased to see that more people were wearing masks while out for the holiday weekend.

“It’s probably the most important thing each of us can do to press down that curve now that we’re not using shutdowns and business closings to do it,” Carney said Tuesday.

-Katie Tabeling

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