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Gov. Carney issues stay-at-home order

Katie Tabeling

Gov. John Carney announces his stay-at-home order, which starts at 8 a.m. March 24.

Taking a hard-line approach to stopping the spread of coronavirus, Gov. John Carney imposed a statewide stay-at-home order Sunday that impacts Delaware’s nearly 1 million residents unless they are going out for essential tasks or required to go to work.

The order takes effect 8 a.m. Tuesday and lasts until May 15 or until the public health threat is eliminated. All non-essential businesses are closed. People will be allowed outside to go to their workplace — if it is permitted to stay open — go to a doctor, buy groceries or medicine, or exercise.

Even though Carney said that he plans to make an announcement early this week about whether public schools will reopen March 30, public schools are listed as non-essential and therefore should be staying closed. Universities, colleges and trade schools are also deemed non-essential, except for staff delivering online programs.

“I understand these restrictions will have real consequences for real people,” Carney said in a public address announcing the impending order Sunday evening. “But the consequences of not imposing these restrictions are way too serious.”

The Delaware Business Roundtable and the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce quickly released a joint statement backing Carney’s “necessary and urgent steps” to slow the outbreak of the virus and ensure health care facilities can respond to this emergency.

Both organizations said they appreciated Carney’s careful consideration before issuing his order, and urged businesses to follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines on social distancing, which suggests 6 feet of space between people to slow the transmission of the virus.

“While we know that closing these businesses, even for a short time, will pose challenges to business owners and their employees and will negatively impact Delaware’s economy, the risk to public health must take precedence at this time,” the joint statement reads.

Delaware Healthcare Association President and CEO Wayne Smith also applauded Carney for taking the necessary steps to protect Delawareans health.

“Delaware’s hospitals will continue the strong allied efforts underway with the larger provider community and our partners in state and local government to maximize our abilities to meet the health needs of our friends and neighbors in our state,” Smith said in a statement.

There are a total of 56 cases of coronavirus in Delaware. That includes 39 cases in New Castle County, five in Kent County and 12 in Sussex County. Six people are hospitalized, three of whom are in critical condition. Unlike 35 other states, Delaware has yet to record a coronavirus death.

Half the cases are people between 18 and 49 years old, according to Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker. She warned that the virus was highly contagious and people who are infected could spread it to two or three more people.

“We all have a role to play in slowing COVID-19 and protecting ourselves, our families and our neighbors,” she said. “We all need to take this seriously. No more gatherings on the boardwalk. No more sleepovers. No more standing outside in a group for ice cream.”

Delaware has listed 242 business types permitted to stay open, including utilities, construction trades, farmers, manufacturers, grocery and liquor stores and others. Restaurants are still open for takeout or delivery only.

Car dealerships, realtors, furniture stores, clothing and shoe stores and other retailers are closed for business under the executive order. A complete list of essential and non-essential businesses can be found here.

Carney issued the order because of the rapid spread of coronavirus throughout the state and his fear of how hard it would hit hospitals.

Throughout last week, New Jersey issued its own stay-at-home order while Pennsylvania and Maryland closed non-essential businesses while stopping short of stay-at-home orders — both states have said that step may be coming. Carney said he had spoken with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in recent days about a cohesive regional approach. Carney said he did not want Delaware to become an example of “what not to do.”

Finally, the governor said that not many people had taken his previous orders seriously. He pointed to his decision to close Delaware beaches over the weekend after seeing many people there on a warm day.

“The more seriously we all take this now, the sooner we can get to the other side of the crisis,” he said. “Government can only do so much to stop the spread of coronavirus. Most of this is on us, you and me, the people of Delaware. We all need to step up. We all need to do our part.”

Carney warned businesses that were still open for business that he will be holding them accountable for a safe working environment for employees.

“If you don’t follow the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines, we will shut you down too,” he said. “The sooner we all take this seriously, the sooner we can all get to the other side of this crisis.”

Delaware will launch a statewide testing program Monday — from Wilmington to Seaford — restricted only to people who are referred by their doctor or a telemedicine service. ChristianaCare, St. Francis Healthcare, Bayhealth, Beebe Healthcare and Nanticoke Health Services have partnered with the state.

“Do not go to your local emergency room. If you have symptoms, you could infect others. It’s important that the emergency departments are free to care for the sickest people,” Walker said.

Delaware residents with general questions about COVID-19 or their exposure risk can call the Division of Public Health’s Coronavirus Call Center at 1-866-408-1899, or 711 for people who are hearing impaired.

Delaware employers with questions about how they may be impacted can email covid19faq@delaware.gov or call 302-577-8477 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Emails are encouraged due to potentially high call volume. 

By Katie Tabeling


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