Del. coronavirus recovery: Gov. Carney closes beach-area bars Friday to halt coastal outbreak

Rehoboth Beach in Delaware

Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, as seen on July 1, 2017. (sainaniritu)

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As of Tuesday, Delaware reported 11,474 coronavirus cases and 509 related deaths. There are 64 people in the hospital, 13 in critical condition.


Del. beach-area bars closing

Bars in Delaware beach communities will close indefinitely starting Friday to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in coastal areas, especially among adults ages 18 to 30, Gov. Carney announced today.

The closure in advance of the busy Fourth of July holiday weekend will also apply to bar areas in restaurants, which will be allowed to remain open and serve diners indoors at 60% capacity.

The order doesn’t mean that brewpubs, taverns, taprooms and nightclubs such as the popular Bottle and Cork in Dewey Beach have to shut their doors completely. It means no one can sit or stand at the bar, and that drinks must be brought to people at their tables. Tables must also be spaced to adhere to social distancing requirements, Carney’s order says.

But the order does limit bar operations because dance floors, arcade areas, pool tables and others areas where people “typically stand or engage” are “off limits” except for seating at tables, the order said.

The areas of eastern Sussex County that must comply are Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Long Neck, Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Fenwick Island, West Fenwick Island, Ocean View and Millville.

Carney said many bar/restaurant operators have done a responsible job of running their businesses, he stressed that too many young adults are congregating there or in private parties and flouting physical distancing and face-covering requirements.

The governor made the declaration during his weekly coronavirus briefing, and said Phase 3 of reopening, which was slated to start two days ago, will be on hold “indefinitely.”

Bars were allowed to open at 30% capacity starting June 1, and at 60 percent when Phase 2 began June 15.

Carney said he’s taking action now to prevent Delaware from joining Florida, Arizona, Texas and other states where cases are skyrocketing.

“We have a little bit of a fire that’s been starting in our beach communities and we need to put it out and the only way is to come together,’’ Carney said.

“This ought to be a wake-up call for all of us as we see this uptick, this outburst in eastern Sussex County to make sure we stamp it out and put out the fire before it starts to spread.”

Carney also said officials are prepared to step up enforcement of the rules of the State of Emergency if necessary.

Carney spoke just minutes after former Vice President Joe Biden said during a televised news conference near Wilmington that Carney has handled the coronavirus crisis “pretty well so far.’’

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, speculated that the governor, who once worked for him when he was a U.S. senator, might make adjustments “because there has been an uptick.”

Lifeguards test positive for COVID- 19

Three Rehoboth Beach lifeguards have tested positive for COVID-19, city officials announced as a flood of visitors to Delaware beach towns has led to a surge in cases there.

“We believe at this time there was very little contact with the public,” said Rehoboth Beach police chief Keith Banks, adding that the lifeguards spend most of their time in the lifeguard stands.

“We immediately executed our COVID response protocol and contacted the local health department. All lifeguards were notified of the exposure and will be tested within the next 24 hours.”

Banks said the lifeguards who have tested positive are asymptomatic and are staying home until medically cleared to return to work. Even though three lifeguards are out, Banks said staffing levels are high enough that lifeguard operations won’t be affected.

About 100 people tested positive for the coronavirus in Rehoboth Beach on Thursday, and a dozen more cases were identified the next day at neighboring Dewey Beach.

Those results, coupled with the earlier disclosure that three teenagers tested positive after spending senior week at the beach and could have infected up to 100 others, has led authorities to urge anyone who has been to the Delaware beaches to get tested.

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