Protesters urge Gov. Carney to reopen Delaware ‘in a safe, logical manner’

Rally organizer Jim McGuckin urges the Delaware government to allow businesses to reopen

Rally organizer Jim McGuckin urges the Delaware government to allow businesses to reopen. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Jessica Rosser wears a mask while doing her job as an emergency medical technician during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

But the mother of five didn’t wear anything over her face or concern herself with social distancing on Wednesday when she joined about 20 people in Dover to protest Gov. John Carney’s month-old, stay-at-home order.

Rosser, who carried a homemade sign proclaiming, “I was born free. Stop violating my rights. Give back my freedom,” said she’s anxious to take her children to the beach and boardwalk near her Sussex County home. And she can’t wait to go into a restaurant and order a margarita.

“I’m actually like losing my mind sitting at home with businesses being closed,’’ Rosser said. “It’s not very good for people who have a depression problem, which I have.

“I also have five kids, three of them in school, and home school has been super overwhelming trying to work a full-time job as an EMT.”

Reopen Delaware rally organizer Rich Bishop covers his entire face in a mask despite his position that coronavirus restrictions imposed by the government are too severe. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Rosser said she doesn’t want to stop people from social distancing, calling it their “God-given right … I personally don’t believe in it.”

Carney has said he will be guided by science — not the howling of naysayers — and needs at least 14 days of declining numbers before he starts the first phase of reopening.

That’s a long way off, though, as Delaware announced its largest daily case increase Wednesday – 269 laboratory-confirmed positives – raising the total with COVID-19 to 3,200.

Eighty-nine people have died who had the virus or were deemed probable to have had it because they had symptoms and contact with an infected person, public health officials said.

Rich Bishop of the grassroots group Reopen Delaware addressed a few reporters while standing with the demonstrators at a replica Liberty Bell on The Green across from Legislative Hall.

Michelle Murphy of Dover (left) and Jessica Rosser of Lewes join a protest against coronavirus restrictions in front of the state Capitol in Dover. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“We’re calling upon you, Governor Carney, to reopen the state of Delaware in a safe, logical manner. We believe that there are business owners that can open following social distancing guidelines,” said Bishop, a refinery operator who wore a bandana over his face. “And our voice will be heard.”

One man cloaked himself in a Delaware flag. Another waved an American flag. A few held signs, including one woman whose placard proclaimed that she would “not comply.”

Fewer than half wore masks, however, and most stood only a foot or two apart – not the recommended six feet to avoid community spread.

Jim McGuckin, who helped organize the gathering, said he didn’t need a mask.

“We don’t need a nanny-type state. I believe we can all be adults and we can practice social distancing and still have our state be open,” said McGuckin, who installs appliances.

“You can have a Walmart open and you can have mom-and-pop stores open. We can just use common sense. Everybody has a right to make a living.”

McGuckin said his church continues to hold services of 10 or fewer people, per Carney’s order, but said he’s not an authority on schools and had no position on that. Carney has closed schools until at least May 15 but has acknowledged that he will probably keep them closed through this school year.

McGuckin suggested that businesses such as hair salons can operate safely if the stylist or barber takes precautions such as wearing a mask and gloves and regularly washing and cleaning.

Saying that hair salons are needed for the public’s “hygiene,” McGuckin said he wouldn’t open vanity shops such as nail salons. “There needs to be a line drawn on that,’’ he said.

Two more protests are also planned for May 1 – one outside Legislative Hall and one outside the state office building in Wilmington where Carney has his upstate office.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal