Delaware State Police checkpoint during State of Emergency

State police conducted checkpoints on April 4 and 5, like this one spotted via drone on northbound Coastal Highway, south of Bethany Beach. The governor's State of Emergency restricts out-of-state travelers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Delaware State Police conducted multiple checkpoints over the course of the weekend of April 4 and 5 throughout Sussex County, as a measure to enforce Gov. John Carney’s order restricting out-of-state travelers’ entry into Delaware.

Nearly 500 out-of-state cars were stopped at several checkpoints, according to state police reports.

The checkpoints occurred between approximately 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. both days and rotated between roadways which had been identified as having a high volume of out-of-state travelers.

According to state police spokesman Master Cpl. Michael Austin, Delaware cars were allowed to proceed through the checkpoints and were not stopped. Out-of-state cars, however, were stopped and drivers were informed of Carney’s orders that they return home or self-quarantine at their Delaware destination for 14 days.

On Saturday, April 4, the checkpoints took place on Plantation Road south of John J. Williams Highway, Coastal Highway southbound at Route 1A, and northbound Coastal Highway south of Bethany Beach. A total of 1,507 vehicles passed through the three checkpoints, with 1,284 being Delaware vehicles and 223 being from out of state.

On Sunday, April 5, the checkpoints took place on Route 113 in the area of Route 20, south of Millsboro; Route 24 in the Long Neck area; and again on northbound Coastal Highway south of Bethany Beach. A total of 1,126 passed through the checkpoints on this day; 872 from Delaware and 254 from out of state.

Some of the out-of-state cars turned around but others were allowed to proceed “due to meeting one of the exceptions outlined in the order” such as being an essential employee or caring for family, Austin said. He added that state police did not collect data on how many turned around and how many were allowed to continue toward their destination.

The seventh Governor’s State of Emergency Declaration requires out-of-state persons traveling into the State of Delaware to self-quarantine for 14 days. This order authorizes any Delaware law enforcement officer to stop a vehicle driving within the state simply because it is displaying an out-of-state tag. The authorization does not apply to vehicles traveling on I-95, I-295, or I-495.

As vehicles proceeded through the checkpoints, those displaying out-of-state tags were stopped, and the drivers were asked limited questions related to their recent travel and purpose for entering Delaware.

The drivers were then informed of the governor’s declaration and advised that if they are coming into Delaware from out of state, they are required by law to self-quarantine for 14 days or immediately return to their home state, state police said.

The interactions with both the Delawareans who passed through the checkpoint, and the out-of-state drivers who were stopped, were “productive and non-confrontational,” according to state police reports. Delaware State Police said drivers being stopped were “appreciative in being made aware of the governor’s order and what the requirement was.”

There were no citations issued or arrests made during the weekend operation. During the interactions, the state police report said, troopers stressed that the primary purpose of the stop was to inform and to educate as opposed to it being a criminal enforcement initiative, although violating the order is a criminal offense.

The checkpoints are expected to continue throughout the state. The purpose of the patrols and checkpoints is to achieve voluntary compliance with the order, through education and awareness, according to state police statements.

Austin said the patrols will not impact numbers of state troopers on normal patrols.

For information regarding the Governor’s State of Emergency Declaration and associated restrictions log on to: https://de.gov/coronavirus.

Staff Reporter

Kerin majored in journalism at Ohio University and has worked as an editor and reporter for monthly, daily and weekly publications in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Delaware since 1983. A native of Baltimore, Md., she has lived in Ocean View since 1996.