Delaware is warning people not to gather for Thanksgiving to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and officials said they are looking at restrictions in nearby states and considering whether they should be implemented here.
Some of those restrictions could be curfews to shut down night-time socializing, and putting limits on gatherings in private homes. Gov. John Carney admitted there was no way the state could enforce in-home restrictions and wouldn’t even try to, but he said new restrictions are coming.
The comments were made during Carney’s weekly COVID-19 press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said no one should gather for Thanksgiving with anyone who is not in their household, even other family members. She said eating with people who are not in your household, especially if you are sitting close by, is one of the ways the virus is easily passed from person to person.
The number of Delaware’s positive cases has continued to rise in the last two months, with a high of 241.1 new cases each day in a seven-day average.
“It’s going in the wrong direction,” Carney said. “So fundamentally our message today is — particularly as we move into the Thanksgiving holiday season — we need to do a better job.”
He praised Delaware for its compliance rate with masks and social distancing, which has shown in Delaware having less of a rise in cases than most other states.
But he also said, “We’re thinking about what are the restrictions that we can put in place, that we may be forced to put in place, because the spread continues to increase.”
The state is now keeping an eye on nearly two dozen places where positive tests have risen more than they want in New Castle and Sussex counties.
They include Newark (home of the University of Delaware), Bear/Christiana, Bear, Middletown, Townsend, Claymont (home of the governor), Wilmington/Elsmere (zip code 19805), Wilmington, Stanton/Newport and New Castle in New Castle County.
In Sussex County, they include Georgetown, Seaford, Laurel, Delmar, Lincoln, Ellendale, Rehoboth/Dewey, Bethany Beach and Selbyville.
The main issue, both Rattay and Carney said, is people gathering for events that are private and unstructured: football watching parties, dinner at a friend’s house, weddings and religious services.
“Today, we’re kind of at an inflection point where we have decisions to make,” Carney said. “Because we essentially have too many of our neighbors who are attending gatherings, mostly social gatherings, informal gatherings, maybe in private homes or in their own homes, without masks and other precautions.”
Because of that, he said, he’s asked state health officials “to look at what other states are doing around us — Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania — and to consider some of the restrictions that we had in place before to come up with ideas that are focused on where the problem really is.”
Rattay detailed how groups of people eating inside without masks in causing a lot of infections. Both Carney and Rattay said that restaurants are doing an excellent job of keeping their diners safe, but that if the rates rise, people won’t want to go out to eat.
“That’s really driving a large amount of the spread that we are seeing in our state right now, so we have to get a handle on how we approach social activities, because this is how the virus is being transmitted, and the recommendations are not going to be what people want to hear,” she said. “This is really, this really tough.”
Among the points:
- Only dine (at home and in restaurants) with those who live with you.
- Don’t spend time with people outside your household, but if you do, be outside, be socially distant, wear face coverings at all times.
- Don’t plan on holding holiday dinners with those outside your household, even family.
“We’ve got to keep it small this year,” Rattay said. “We really, truly hope that this is the last year that we need to say this, but it’s important that we do everything we can to turn this around.”
Among other restrictions, Rattay said, are reducing the numbers allowed at public events; implementing curfews on days and times when people are more likely to gather; limiting indoor sports activities; and updates to mask requirements.
“We’re telling you this now because this is not what we want to do,” Rattay said. “We don’t want to be in a position where we have to put further restrictions in place, but we also don’t want to have to close schools again and, you know, have any additional impact on the economy.”
The virus wants to spread, she said, but all Delawareans have the ability to turn the numbers around.
“We can do this, Delaware,” she said.