Governor John Carney issued the tenth modification to his State of Emergency declaration, banning all short-term rental units — including vacation home rentals, hotels, motels, condo and campground rentals — to help fight the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

On Monday evening, April 6, Carney announced that “Limited Operation Non-Essential Businesses” may operate on a limited basis.

For instance, commercial lodging in Delaware will remain closed through May 15, or until the public health threat is eliminated. However, the order exempts certain Delawareans and essential workers who may need access to short-term rental units. That list of exemptions includes caretakers with family members nearby, health care providers, people affected by domestic violence, journalists, Delawareans with public housing vouchers, workers of an “Essential Business” needing housing in Delaware and others who are displaced or have no other housing option.

Food service in these locations will only be by delivery or carry-out. All other amenities must be closed, including bars, fitness centers, pools, spas and meeting rooms.

Governor Carney’s updated order takes effect at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7.

Monday’s order places additional restrictions on businesses, banning door-to-door solicitation and closing pawn shops, video game stores, and other electronics retailers.

Many services must be by appointment only: car dealers, dentist offices, various repair shops, firearms dealers and more.

Shooting ranges may continue to operate if they conform to social distancing requirements and all other State of Emergency requirements.

Golf courses are strictly limited, to the game and little else.

Realtors are permitted to work from home to the extent feasible, to do all necessary showings to perspective buyers/lessors, and to take any action necessary to complete any sales or rentals that were in progress prior to the Fourth Modification of the State of Emergency.

The order also addresses rules for remote meetings of stockholders.

“All of Delaware’s restrictions are intended to prevent a surge in cases, preserve our hospital capacity, and save lives,” said Carney.

“This is not the time for a vacation or tax-free shopping in Delaware,” he added. “Delawareans also should not go out in public unnecessarily. Stay safe. Stay home. Protect your neighbors. We’ll get through this — but it’s going to take all of us.”

He clarified that places of worship or religious fellowship shall comply with all social distancing requirements, including attendance of no more than 10 people for in-person services under any circumstances. Houses of worship are strongly encouraged to transition any in-person services to remote services broadcast by telephone or video.

A number of businesses were specifically added to the “Non-Essential” list, which must close, including pawn shops, electronics and video game retailers, craft/hobby retailers, libraries and bookstores, ice cream trucks and shops (except available by customer drive-thru), arcades, bowling alleys, public swimming pools, indoor play areas, zoos, museums, door-to-door solicitations, customer service call centers and telemarketing operations; shopping malls (except where an essential business has its own outside entrance).

Those Non-Essential businesses cannot skirt the law by conducting business via curbside pickup.

All State of Emergency rules have the force and effect of law, and the Department of Justice has already issued cease and desist orders to six businesses.

Officers throughout our State are enforcing the ban on travelers coming to Delaware from out-of-state and not quarantining.  In the past week, Delaware State Police have set up multiple checkpoints in Delaware, including Route 1 in Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach, Route 20 in Long Neck and Route 113 south of Millsboro. Although their goal has been to educate drivers, offenders could face fines and prison time. 

Failure to obey an emergency order is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50 to $500 and up to 6 months in prison per infraction. Additionally, persons or businesses who engage in price gouging activity face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per offense.

All of the governor’s emergency orders, plus other coronavirus statistics, are posted online at de.gov/coronavirus.

Delaware employers with questions about how they may be impacted can email covid19FAQ@delaware.gov, or call (302) 577-8477 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Emails are encouraged due to potentially high call volume.

Delaware announces 110 new cases and 15th death

Also on April 6, the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) announced one additional fatality related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In total, 15 Delawareans have passed away due to complications from COVID-19, ranging in age from 66 to 94 years old. The most recent death involves an 84-year-old male from Kent County who had underlying health conditions.

Since March 11, Delaware has had 783 total laboratory-confirmed cases:

  • New Castle County cases: 496
  • Kent County cases: 128
  • Sussex County cases: 159
  • Males: 356; Females: 415; Unknown: 12
  • Age range: 1 to 97
  • Currently hospitalized: 140; including 25 critically ill

As hospitals continue to see an increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19, the Division of Public Health will now report the total number of individuals hospitalized in Delaware hospitals, including both Delaware and non-Delaware residents. The remaining categories of case statistics reported by DPH represent Delaware residents only.

DPH epidemiologists are transitioning to a new data reporting system. During the transition period, not all fields (sex) have complete information, and some categories of data (critically ill, Delawareans recovered) are reflective of statistics as of April 5.

At least 71 Delawareans have recovered, and there were 6,851 negative tests (results are preliminary)

Delaware is considering patients fully recovered seven days after the resolution of their symptoms. Three days after symptoms resolve, patients are no longer required to self-isolate at home, but they must practice strict social distancing for another four days before returning to their normal daily routine.

On Monday, DPH began a new collaboration with the United Way of Delaware to triage incoming calls related to COVID-19. Anyone with a question about COVID-19 (related to medical or social service needs) should call Delaware 2-1-1, or 1-800-560-3372 (7-1-1 for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing) or text your ZIP code to 898-211.

Or, any Delaware health care, long-term care, residential, or other high-risk facility with questions or concerns should email DPH_PAC@delaware.gov or call the DPH Call Center at 1-866-408-1899, ext. 2.

Widespread community transmission is occurring throughout the state, which means COVID-19 is actively circulating in the community.

“If you are sick with any of the following symptoms, stay home: fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle fatigue, or digestive symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or lack of appetite,” officials said. “If you are sick and need essential supplies, ask someone else to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy to get what you need.”

Anyone who was exposed to a person with COVID-19, or who shows symptoms of illness, should sure to distance themselves from others, especially vulnerable populations. Older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions — including serious heart conditions, chronic lung conditions, including moderate to severe asthma, severe obesity and those who are immunocompromised, including through cancer treatment — might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Testing is available statewide, but only with a referral from a physician or telemedicine provider. These are not walk-in sites. Those without a primary care provider can call the DPH Call Center Line at 1-866-408-1899 for a referral.

Health-related questions can also be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov.

DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. The latest on Delaware’s response, including the governor’s orders and statistics, are online at de.gov/coronavirus.

Staff Reporter

Laura Walter is an award-winning reporter on schools, environment, people and history. A graduate of Indian River High School and Washington College, she has rappelled off a building and assisted a magician, and encourages readers to act on local issues.