Carney restricts indoor gatherings to 10, puts restaurants back at 30 percent indoor capacity

 

Gov. John Carney decided against another shutdown and instead issued more severe limits on gatherings.

Gov. John Carney announced COVID-19 surge restrictions Tuesday that include only allowing 10 people inside home gatherings and putting restaurants back at 30 percent capacity indoors.

 
The state also is recommending the schools continue to stay open or in hybrid mode, and making more money available to help restaurants and other businesses whose income has been hurt dramatically by COVID-19.
 
“I know this is difficult,” Carney said Tuesday during his weekly COVID-19 press conference. “And it’s difficult for me as governor to have to decide to put these restrictions in place.
 
“I can tell you, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think it was the right thing to do for the health and economic welfare of our state, not just for tomorrow and next week. But next month. And next year.”
 
The new restrictions, which he’s hinted at for weeks, come as both Delaware and the nation are seeing large increases in the number of people who test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 and are hospitalized because of it.
 
Health officials fear a huge jump in the number of cases and hospitalizations as the country heads into holidays and winter months will overwhelm hospital systems and healthcare resources.
 
 
 
Carney said Tuesday that he did not want to have another shutdown that closed businesses and made people stay home. Businesses need to make as much income as possible so they can survive to the other side of the pandemic, he said, and kids needs to stay in school.
 
“We want to try to balance all those things out,” he said. “We don’t have stay at home orders. We are saying, look, we have to accept a new normal for some time being and encourage people to do that and be as positive as we can.”
 
He also urged Delawareans to keep their Thanksgivings small, find ways to gather digitally and to consider buying food or side dishes from favorite area restaurants. People could even have dinner delivered to grandma and other residents, he suggested.
 
Carney said he hoped that the restrictions would not be needed at Christmas.
 
 
 
Underpinning his decision is the rising number of cases. Carney said 29,552 Delawareans have tested positive for the virus, and 739 have died. There were 153 people hospitalized Tuesday, with 32 in critical condition.
 
But because the virus spreads exponentially — meaning one person can affect many —  he doesn’t want that 153 hospitalized to almost triple to 400 or 550 in a few short weeks. Delaware has 400 to 450 beds for COVID patients, he said. 
 
He based the trippling effect on what happened at the start of the pandemic. On April 6, he said, 140 people were hospitalized for COVID. By April 17, the peak of the virus in the spring, it was 337. 
 
The state continues to advocate for people to be tested. It’s published an extensive list of free testing sites for the week, and already has a list available for testing Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Thanksgiving week.
 
 
 
Among the new set of restrictions, most of which go into effect Monday, Nov. 23, at 8 a.m.:
 
  • Indoor gatherings in homes must be capped at no more than 10 people.
  • Indoor gatherings outside of homes must be limited to 30 percent of the venue’s stated fire capacity, up to a cap of 50 people. This includes all events, such as weddings, funerals, services in houses of worship, performances, political gatherings and events in public spaces including fire halls.
  • Outdoor public gatherings are limited to 50 people. Up to 250 may be allowed with a plan approved by the Delaware Division of Public Health.
  • Restaurants must operate at no more than 30 percent of fire capacity indoors, with allowances for additional outdoor seating.
  • Restaurants must include signs at their table which say: Please put a mask on when you are not eating and drinking; put a mask on whenever staff approach the table; and put a mask on whenever you get up from the table. 
  • Carney’s order will also prohibit Delaware youth sports organizations, teams and venues from hosting or participating in tournaments with out-of-state teams, effective at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The order includes a provision prohibiting Delaware teams from traveling across states lines for tournaments.
 
 
 
The restrictions will be formally issued in a revision to the Governor’s omnibus emergency order later this week. 
 
Putting a limit on the number of people who can gather in one place will mean fewer people can be exposed if someone is infectious, or “shedding the virus,” as Carney likes to say.
 
He also said during this press conference that some large gatherings can be policed by public health or law enforcement, but the state will be relying on the public’s compliance with the restrictions and will not be monitoring gatherings in homes.
 
“We’re not going to be knocking on people’s doors to see how many are at dinner at Thanksgiving,” Carney said.
 
 
 
Based on a weekly review of publicly available data, the Delaware Division of Public Health continues to recommend that K-12 public schools operate in a hybrid model with a mix of in-person and remote instruction, said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, during the press conference.
 
“Transmission of COVID-19 has been rare in Delaware schools because students, educators and staff are following the basic health guidelines and doing their part to keep children in classrooms, and exposure is primarily occurring in social settings outside of school,” she said in the press release. “Let’s follow their lead and do what works.
 
“Wear a mask. Avoid the urge to gather socially with friends or extended family outside your household. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently. This is a difficult time for all Delawareans. Thank you for everything you’re doing. We’ll get through this.”
 
Carney on Tuesday said it was difficult to put restrictions on restaurants and others because the state knows that will hurt their income. Therefore, it announced an $25 million expansion of the DE Relief Grants program for businesses hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions.
 
The expansion will provide additional relief for hundreds of businesses that have been disproportionately impacted. Qualifying businesses, including restaurants and taprooms, will receive double their original grant allocation.
 
Many businesses may not have applied or qualified for the first round, Carney said, but he urged them to apply again, and they need to apply soon, because the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money must be spent by Dec. 30.
 
The application deadline is Dec. 4, 2020, and can be found at delbiz.com/relief.
 
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