Beaches to re-open to Delawareans on May 22

Beaches state wide will re-open at 5 p.m. on May 22 to Delaware residents and out-of-state residents who have been quarantined in Delaware for at least 14 days. The shoreline in Bethany Beach was empty on March 22, after Gov. John Carney closed all beaches statewide for all purposes except exercise and dog-walking. As of May 15, the Town of Bethany Beach will re-open its beach and boardwalk for walking and exercise only.

Gov. John Carney on Thursday, May 14, announced that the State of Delaware will lift restrictions on Delaware beaches and community pools at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22, subject to strict social-distancing requirements and other restrictions. Ice cream shops and trucks will reopen with restrictions effective at 5 p.m. this Friday, May 15.

Carney made the announcement on Thursday after consultation with public health experts at the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) and mayors of Delaware’s beach towns, he noted.

Delaware’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travelers and ban on short-term rentals will remain in effect, officials emphasized. Non-Delawareans who have been in Delaware for at least 14 days will be permitted to use the beaches.

Strict social-distancing and hygiene requirements will accompany the reopening of Delaware’s beaches. Beachgoers must maintain at least 6 feet of distance between themselves and anyone outside their household. Face coverings must be worn on the boardwalks and are being encouraged on the beach. Restaurants and bars are still limited to delivery and take-out services only.

The full list of requirements and recommendations for beach towns and beachgoers is available below.

(See https://coronavirus.delaware.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/177/2020/05/Re-Opening-Guidance-for-Public-and-Community-Swimming-Pools_051420.pdf for DPH guidance on reopening public and community swimming pools.)

Pools, ice cream shops and trucks to re-open

“Summer at the beach and the pool is a huge part of life for so many Delawareans. As we ease our way into a new normal, we’re trying to find ways for Delawareans to enjoy the outdoors and the company of their families,” said Carney.

“I want to be very clear to our friends who want to travel here from outside the state,” he added. “While we hope one day soon to be able to welcome you to our beaches, that time has not yet come. We need to reopen Delaware in a controlled way that doesn’t put anyone at risk.”

“I cannot emphasize strongly enough that during this everyone must continue to keep a 6-foot distance from others, and to wear face coverings when out, even when going to enjoy activities permitted under these limited re-opening conditions,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “It’s incredibly important that everyone exercise common sense and follow the restrictions so we don’t have a re-resurgence in cases of COVID-19 and are forced to tighten them again.”

Under Thursday’s announcement, community pools in Delaware may reopen at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22, but are limited to 20 percent of regular capacity. Swim lessons or practices of swim teams are not permitted.

Ice cream stores and trucks may reopen for take-out or curbside pick-up with strict social-distancing measures at 5 p.m. this Friday, May 15. Children younger than 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

“With the restrictions being lifted for our beaches, pools and ice cream shops, it is critical that we all continue to act as if we already have coronavirus,” said Department of Health & Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a practicing family physician.

“We need to remain at least 6 feet away from non-family members, wear a face covering in public, wash our hands often, wipe down commonly-used surfaces, and cough and sneeze into our face coverings or elbows. Preventing flare-ups of COVID-19 is our shared responsibility. It is the only way we will protect ourselves and our neighbors.”

Surf-fishing restrictions reduced, DSP to enforce out-of-state quarantine

Beaches at Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore and Fenwick Island state parks may limit capacity to vehicles to enforce social distancing.

Carney announced Thursday that current surf fishing restrictions on the number of individuals allowed per vehicle will be lifted on May 22 at 5 p.m. However, all individuals in each vehicle must be from the same household.

Surf-fishing access may also be limited to enforce social distancing and avoid overcrowding.

“Our state park beaches are always popular places for people to get fresh air, exercise and create memorable experiences, but the restrictions have been critical to keep us all safe,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “As we allow increased beach activities, we urge Delawareans to avoid crowds and maintain at least 6 feet from others on and off the sand.

“We will be using entrance and parking restrictions to manage capacity. We’re trying to provide opportunities for Delawareans to continue to enjoy our state parks, but it is not back to normal, by any stretch.”

To enforce the out-of-state quarantine as Delaware beaches reopen, Delaware State Police will station troopers at routes typically used by out-of-state travelers. Travelers will be stopped, asked a series of questions, and given information about the 14-day quarantine requirement under Gov. Carney’s State of Emergency declaration. Violations of the emergency declaration, or any of its modifications, constitute a criminal offense.

Local officials also are being encouraged to limit capacity on their beaches to prevent overcrowding and potential spread of COVID-19.

“The Delaware State Police will continue to enforce the laws of the State of Delaware, to include those associated with the 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers,” said Col. Nathaniel McQueen Jr., superintendent of the Delaware State Police.

“Our emphasis and goal in enforcing the orders — specifically in regards to the travel restrictions — is to achieve voluntary compliance through education and awareness. The health and well-being of our troopers, as well as the community, will remain our top priority as we continue to serve and protect, during this unprecedented event.”

Social distancing, face coverings and other restrictions to remain on beaches and boardwalks

Beach towns and beachgoers will be subject to certain restrictions as Delaware beaches reopen effective at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22.

Towns must:

• Clean bathrooms, boardwalk railings, benches multiple times per day;

• Close arcade games on boardwalks;

• Demarcate (using tape, cones, etc.) 6 feet intervals: in front of certain retail establishments on boardwalks where lines are likely to form; entrances to the beach; or any other area where congregating or waiting in lines is likely to occur.

• Identify enforcement teams.

Towns are recommended to:

• Implement systems to limit capacity (such as timed or day passes) on the beach;

• Limit parking spaces;

• Limit access points;

• Designate “beach ambassadors” to educate beachgoers about social distancing and serve as liaisons to law-enforcement; and

• Station beach ambassadors at access points.

Regulations for beachgoers:

• Face coverings are required on boardwalks and encouraged on the beach;

• Members of different households must remain 6 feet apart at all times;

• Individuals with underlying health conditions or who are older than 65 should continue to shelter in place.

• Avoid water fountains.

Regulations for on-premise beach vendors:

• Food and beverage concession vendors must follow restaurant regulations and may only provide take-out or delivery service. Vendors must wear face coverings. Customers must be 6 feet apart while waiting in line.

• The rental of items such as umbrellas, chairs, mats, kayaks, etc., are allowed so long as the vendor properly disinfects between each use/rental.

Anyone with a question about COVID-19, whether related to medical or social service needs, should call Delaware 211. Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can text their ZIP code to 898-211. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Health or medically-related COVID-19 questions can also be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov. DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.