Governor John Carney today officially ordered a “shelter in place” for all residents of the state and ordered all nonessential businesses to close for two months to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
The orders go into effect at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. They will remain in effect until May 15 “or until the public health threat is eliminated.”
The closure of stores and businesses until mid-May or longer will come as a surprise to many, and will likely put an additional strain on the state’s already exploding unemployment rolls.
Revised State of Emergency: some businesses must close
Grocery stores, specialty food stores, beer, wine and liquor stores may all remain open. Restaurants may also continue to offer takeout and delivery.
Florists, dry cleaners, landscaping companies, car repair shops, banks and gas stations may also remain open.
Most retailers are impacted by the order. This includes automobile dealers, clothing, shoes, furniture, books, sports and gift stores.
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries, performing arts, spectator sports, museums and historical sites must close. Parks are allowed to have visitors on their grounds. But public bathrooms and all other amenities at those locations are closed.
Click here for a full list of essential and non-essential businesses, as defined by Sunday’s order.
The Governor cited these reasons he decided to close non-essential businesses.
1. Health officials are starting to see an increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Delaware
2. Officials are concerned about the ability of Delaware’s hospitals to handle a surge in the volume of cases
3. Neighboring states have taken similar action, and Gov. Carney doesn’t want the state to become a destination for residents of other states seeking a more permissive environment
4. Not enough people have taken the previous guidance seriously
Eleven new cases of Coronavirus-19 since yesterday
The Delaware Division of Public Health on Sunday also said 56 Delawareans have now been confirmed with coronavirus since March 11. This includes 11 additional cases since yesterday. Of the Delawareans diagnosed with COVID-19, 39 are from New Castle County, five are from Kent County, and 12 are from Sussex County.
Stay-at-home order includes a specific list of approved activities
The shelter in place order allows people to travel to and from work, take part in essential travel, go to the doctor or grocery store, or exercise/walk outside.
Governor Carney said the decision to further restrict activities of residents and businesses was not easy. And he knows residents will have questions about which activities they can still take part in under the new orders.
“My advice to you is really, very simple. When in doubt, stay home. Go to work, and go straight back home. If you don’t need food or other essential items, stay home,” said Gov. Carney.
“And for the businesses that are still operating, we’re holding you accountable for providing a safe working environment for all of your employees,” said Carney.
Governor Carney said he was acting with urgency to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases that could overwhelm the state’s hospital system. “Essential businesses that remain open must provide easy access to handwashing stations or sanitizer, enforce social distancing, and provide flexible sick leave policies for their employees. That will reduce our risk and help keep all Delawareans healthy. We’ll get through this, but we all need to pitch in and take this threat seriously.”
Leaving your home is allowed under Governor Carney’s order for essential activities. Delawareans may leave their homes to get groceries, pick up a prescription, see a doctor, and engage in other activities essential to their health, and the health and wellbeing of their family members, including pets. Delawareans may also engage in outdoor activity but must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Additional details are available in the text of Governor Carney’s order.
Click here for answers to frequently asked questions.
Delaware employers with questions about how they may be impacted can email [email protected], or call 302-577-8477 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Emails are encouraged due to potentially high call volume.
Early next week, Governor Carney and Delaware public schools will announce next steps on school closures.
Sunday’s order requires essential Delaware businesses to implement flexible and non-punitive sick leave policies for their employees, in accordance with guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH).
Employers must follow social distancing policies, protect high-risk workers, provide hand-washing or sanitizer stations, and follow all health guidelines for internal cleaning. Visitors are not allowed at essential Delaware businesses under Sunday’s order, unless they are providing an essential service.
Government agencies are urged to take steps needed to provide shelter for Delawareans experiencing homelessness, in accordance with CDC guidance. Homeless individuals are otherwise not subject to the shelter in place order.
Delawareans whose homes are unsafe – such as victims of domestic violence – are urged to and seek a safe, alternative residence.
Those at high risk of infection and illness from COVID-19 and Delawareans who are sick are urged to stay in their home except as necessary to seek medical care.
State of Delaware offices will remain open but state employees should telecommute wherever possible, in accordance with guidelines from the Delaware Department of Human Resources.
As of March 22, there have been 56 total laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Delaware since March 11. Of the Delawareans diagnosed with COVID-19, 39 are from New Castle County, five are from Kent County, and 12 are from Sussex County.