Delaware eases COVID curfew on restaurants, bars

Delaware bars and restaurants can now stay open past 10 p.m., but Gov John Carney’s stay-at-home order and restrictions on large gatherings remain.

State officials encourage businesses to earn what Gov. John Carney calls the

State officials encourage businesses to earn what Gov. John Carney calls the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" for meeting safety benchmarks. (State of Delaware)

On Wednesday, Delaware recorded its highest single-day total of new COVID-19 infections at 1,241 cases. That increased the seven-day daily average to more than 790 cases per day. The state also recorded its highest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic started with 458 patients on Jan. 5.

Despite the steady climb in new cases since November, Gov. John Carney has modified his emergency order restricting restaurants and bar operations. Previously, Carney’s order forced those establishments to close at 10 p.m. The new guidance issued this morning allows restaurants and bars to stay open until their normal closing times.

“We are balancing the need for a healthy community and a healthy economy, but we can’t let our guard down,” Carney said in a statement.  “Let’s all do our part, and do what works. Wear a mask. Don’t gather socially with friends or family outside your household. Stay vigilant.”

Restaurants will still be required to restrict capacity to just 30% of their maximum occupancy. Operators will still have to post signs telling diners that their group must only contain members of the same household.

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According to the state’s data, restaurant visits are the most common place visited by people later diagnosed with the virus. More than 1,000 people reported visiting a restaurant within two weeks of the onset of symptoms or the date of their test. Religious services account for the second-highest venue visited by those later diagnosed with the virus.

The state’s stay-at-home advisory and universal indoor mask mandate will also remain in force.

“As we come out of the winter holiday season, we are keeping these restrictions in place so that we can protect Delaware’s hospital capacity and protect lives,” Carney said.

The new order will allow all sports events to resume, as long as attendance is limited to the same 30% capacity. Athletes, coaches, staff, and spectators are all included in that tally.

Anyone who takes part in an out-of-state tournament or competition will still be required to self-quarantine when they return to Delaware. The Division of Public Health is also authorized to issue “cease and desist” orders to any team with high or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases, or any team that doesn’t comply with state health guidelines.

Earlier this week, Carney urged school districts to return from all-remote learning to a hybrid mix of in-classroom and online instruction. He said Delaware schools were not a serious coronavirus risk for students and staff. His letter to district leaders cited findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics and others that “have repeatedly pointed to the negative effects on children – especially our most vulnerable children – when they aren’t able to attend school in person.”

Since K-12 classes began in early September, a total of 579 of the approximately 161,000 Delaware students in public and private schools have tested positive, according to an enhanced COVID-19 contagion website the state just launched. In addition, 546 staff members have tested positive.

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