Bars in Delaware will reopen this weekend, with patrons being permitted to sit at the rail, as long as they have reserved seating and are sure to order food.

Jamie Mack, chief of the Office of Health Systems Protection for the Delaware Division of Public Health, made the announcement on Tuesday, Sept. 1, during Gov. John Carney’s press briefing and said seats must be safe distances apart.

Hundreds of compliance checks have been made at area restaurants and businesses, and enforcement actions taken, with at least one restaurant being immediately closed and patrons escorted out, Mack said. Enforcement increased in August and will continue into September. Area restaurants that he noted as having been especially compliant include One Coastal in Fenwick Island, Easy Speak and Home Grown Café in Milford, and Caffe Gelato in Newark.

Anyone concerned about non-compliance can report it via email to HSPcontact@delaware.gov.

“We’re going to have to be a little bit harder on enforcement. If you do thumb your nose at the guidance, then we’re going to fine you or close you down. It all comes down to face coverings. … It’s certainly an easy sacrifice to make,” the governor said.

During the summer, enforcement focused on beach-area establishments, but is now directed at college campuses, Mack said, with representatives from his department finding rules are generally followed during the week but the attitude is more lax on evenings and weekends.

Sussex Countians urged to take part in Census

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, who was also with Carney at the press briefing, took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of taking part in the U.S. Census and urged those in areas where participation has been low to spend about six minutes to answer the questions. They can be found online at my2020census.gov or @DelawareCounts on Facebook. Or, call 1-844-330-2020.

Sussex County has one of the lowest cooperation levels in the state, at 52.2 percent, Hall-Long said.

“Why these Census data matter is because it really affects our political districts. … The money matters. These are things from your lunch money to your Medicaid to your crop insurance. We are falling behind based on the fact that we have not always been counted. We really need to be sure we are responding,” she said.

The questions don’t threaten privacy, she said.

“It is private. It is confidential. You don’t have anything to fear. No one will be given this information,” she said. Census-takers will not ask for citizenship status, money, a donation or anyone’s full Social Security number.

Requirements for sports to resume laid out

Mack also discussed Carney’s 26th modification to the State of Emergency order, updating requirements for public sports and categorizing them as high-risk, medium-risk and low-risk. Anyone playing a high-risk sport, including football and wrestling, must wear a face covering at all times, or a plan must be presented to the Department of Public Health to modify the sport, with limited contact, he said.

The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association will make final determinations.

Carney said he watched a high school football game, being played in Alabama, “and that’s not the way you’re supposed to be doing it here in Delaware,” he said, adding that not enough people were wearing masks or staying safe distances apart.

“The main thing is to encourage all athletes, coaches, parents, referees, to take the guidelines seriously and the most important thing is to wear a mask,” he said.

“When I first saw this, ‘If you want to play you wear a mask,’ I said there is no way,” Carney said, but he has learned it can be done.

“It’s really following the guidelines that we put out,” he said.

“We can’t afford for people to let down their guard. … As we try to get more athletes on the field, it requires all of us to follow really simple guidelines, and the most important is to wear a mask. I’m convinced that we can do it. It’s going to be a situation where we are adopting a new set of guidelines and the most important part of that is wearing a face covering when we’re in public,” he said.

Mack said medium-risk sports include baseball, softball, fencing, gymnastics, soccer, flag football, track-and-field, sailing and field hockey. High-risk sports include ice hockey, wrestling, tackle football, boys’ lacrosse, boxing, rugby, martial arts, Ultimate Frisbee and pair figure skating.

Coaches won’t be able to signal groups of players to flock together for instruction, and referees must wear face coverings. Spectators will also be required to wear face coverings unless seated with family a safe distance away from others.

If a player is at least 6 feet away from a teammate, he can pull the face mask down for a few moments.

Restrictions on benches and dugouts will continue, Mack said, with no crowded dugouts “if we want to continue seeing sports come back.”

Players can’t rush together after a game to pick up their gear, and everyone must wash their hands before and after games, for at least 20 seconds, especially if equipment is shared. High-contact surfaces must be frequently disinfected, and entire facilities must be cleaned at least daily, unless not used daily. Those who are ill must stay home.

“We want Delaware’s children to be active, to get outside this fall. But coaches, sports organizers and parents need to make sure they’re following all necessary precautions to keep children and families safe from COVID-19,” Carney said.

“This virus is still active in our communities. Wear a mask. Physically distance from others. Don’t gather in large groups. We’re beating this virus, but we all need to stay vigilant,” he said.

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.