As the state begins to reawaken, retail shops were set to begin serving customers, by appointment, this week, and Delaware beaches will open beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday — a move Delaware Gov. John Carney wouldn’t have anticipated in March.

“If you had asked me a month or two ago if we were going to open beaches by Memorial Day weekend, I would have said, ‘Probably not,’ but yet here we are ready to open the beaches,” Carney said during a press briefing Tuesday afternoon.

Masks will be required on the boardwalk, and are recommended while on the beach.

Carney emphasized the importance of not congregating in crowds on the beach.

“This is a learning process for us, figuring out ways to eliminate big crowds,” he said.

Asked why mask use will only be mandatory on the boardwalk, Carney said it’s because of proximity to others while walking and shopping on the popular promenades.

With Carney at the press briefing were Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health; Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohan; and Damian DeStefano, director of the Division of Small Business.

Rattay said hospitalizations due to the coronavirus have decreased in Delaware, making this a good time for hospitals and healthcare providers to resume elective procedures, preventive care, screenings and check-ups.

Hospital officials have reported that many very sick patients are arriving at emergency rooms now because they waited too long for medical care. She said no one should wait to seek care for any condition.

Hospitals have lost revenue because of stopping surgical procedures, Carney said, and must begin again, “as long as we have resources, as long as we have PPE.”

Asked about how the coronavirus will affect the state’s finances, Carney said it “won’t be pretty.”

“We are going to fight like mad to make sure people don’t get laid off. Can we achieve that? If ever there was a time to make sure folks have income, now is the time. It’s going to be hard to do, but that should be the major objective,” he said.

“We cannot borrow money in an unfettered way. … We have to balance the budget. We can only spend as much as the anticipated revenue.

“The good news is, we were in very strong fiscal condition coming into this. We had a pretty strong financial cushion,” the governor said.

As of Tuesday, May 19, at 6 p.m. (in data reported Wednesday, May 20), there had been 8,194 cases of the coronavirus diagnosed statewide, 310 deaths, 3,965 patients deemed recovered, 37,218 negative test results, 220 people hospitalized, with 35 critically ill.

Sussex has had the most cases in the state, with a total of 3,960, compared to 2,933 in New Castle County and 1,253 in Kent County. 

DeStefano, who has been working with businesses in anticipation of reopening, said there have been 11 virtual town-hall meetings and that his department has received feedback from small-business owners and Delaware residents.

Guidance for reopening in Phase 1 has been clarified.

Generally, people must continue to wear cloth face coverings, wash their hands frequently, stay home if they are ill, and must not force themselves to go back to work at a business getting ready to reopen if they are sick, as well as staying safe distances from others.

Hand sanitizer must be provided to customers as they enter stores.

To inspire confidence for customers, the Division of Small Business is developing a checklist. Once each business owner completes it, a window cling will be awarded, certifying the proper steps to reopen.

Asked how the state will oversee shop re-openings, Carney said business owners know what is needed, and are aware that employees and customers must feel safe.

DeStefano said his department works closely police and the Department of Justice to achieve high levels of compliance.

Cohan noted that there has been decreased traffic on Delaware roadways during the stay-at-home order, allowing the Delaware Department of Transportation to complete projects.

She praised Delaware contractors for following rules for staying safe, as well as DelDOT employees.

Staff Reporter

Veteran news reporter Susan Canfora has written for many newspapers and held positions ranging from managing editor to her favorite, news reporter. She joined the Coastal Point in June 2019. She teaches college writing, tutors and professionally edits.