With Delaware’s coronavirus numbers spiking again, Gov. John Carney has tightened restrictions on restaurants and private gatherings.
The new rules, which the governor announced Tuesday, go into effect Nov. 23.
“These are difficult decisions, but we face a difficult and challenging winter,” Carney said in a prepared statement. “COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising in Delaware and across the country. Nearly 250,000 Americans, including 736 Delawareans, have already lost their lives to this virus. Our focus must be on protecting lives.”
Restaurants, which Carney said are a particular concern because people take their masks off to eat, will be limited to just 30 percent of their capacity, as defined by the fire code. Outdoor seating is counted separately.
Indoor events, including weddings, church services, performances and political gatherings, are also limited to 30 percent capacity, with a maximum of 50 people. Outdoor gatherings are capped at 50 people, though organizers can seek permission to expand that to 250 by filing a plan with the Division of Public Health.
Carney’s restrictions also limit gatherings in private homes to no more than 10 people. The guideline takes effect just in time for Thanksgiving, when health officials worry families will get together and inadvertently spread COVID-19.
Officials have said in recent weeks that much of the coronavirus transmission has been occurring through casual, in-home gatherings, such as dinners or people gathering to watch a football game.
“What we can see in our data is that social gatherings, whether at a house party, casual dinner, or restaurant, where people take off their masks while they eat, drink and chat, are the primary situations in which COVID-19 is being spread,” DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said. “It is just not safe right now to socially eat, drink, casually hang out or party with people outside of our household unless we are socially distanced and outside.”
Meanwhile, starting Dec. 1, youth sports organizations are prohibited from hosting tournaments with out-of-state teams, or crossing state lines for tournaments.
Notably, though, Carney is allowing schools to continue operating in a hybrid model, in which students attend class a couple days per week and do virtual learning the rest of the time.
“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,” Rattay said.
Delaware is seeing an average of 347 new cases per day, up from just 70 in mid August. There are 153 people currently hospitalized, and seven Delawareans have died from coronavirus in the last week.