UPDATE: This article has been updated (below) to reflect responses from the Department of Public Health and the office of the Governor.
Since Governor Carney’s order to limit travel into Delaware on Sunday, there have been pockets of confusion among out of state residents who regularly cross state lines to work or shop for food.
The seventh modification to the State of Emergency, which went into effect Monday morning at 8 am, requires that out of state residents quarantine for 14 days if they travel into the state.
Many from just over Delaware’s border in Pennsylvania and Maryland are still unsure if the new rule allows them to shop in nearby grocery stores, get takeout from their favorite restaurants, or check in on elderly relatives.
Yesterday on social media, individuals posted queries directed to the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) Call Center where they were met with different and sometimes conflicting responses to the same questions (see image below).
Many residents of Chester County, for example, consider themselves members of the Delaware community, often doing basic food shopping, buying gas and working in the First State.
For these people and others, because the new guidelines have the force of law, people are taking this modification very seriously and looking for specific answers.
One Pennsylvania resident who lives in PA near Hockessin said, “Everybody is confused. The modification is unclear. I mean, Delaware is a tiny state that neighbors Pennsylvania. I live one mile over the border, and everything I do is in Delaware. Then also I had also heard from a friend how are they’re enforcing it, so that has me really worried.”
Many Pennsylvania residents thought the modification left too much to interpretation. The concerned Pennsylvania resident we spoke with said, “A neighbor sent an email to the Delaware Division of Public Health (firstname.lastname@example.org) and asked, “Can I still shop at Lantana ACME if I live in Pennsylvania, and she got straight-up – ‘no.’ So, I am going to do what I can do to stay out of Delaware. If they’re enforcing it and allowing State Troopers and police officers to pull people over, we need more clarification,” she said.
People are looking to Facebook where there is no shortage of responses. Some are asking, “Are you a person of authority? Or are you just assuming an interpretation?”
People are wondering:
- How should I be prepared if I am pulled over by State Police or local police? Will citations be issued?
- Can only “essential employees” with jobs in Delaware enter the state?
- Can “essential employees” who work in Delaware but reside in PA make stops to purchase gas, groceries, take-out from restaurants or anything else that is currently open in Delaware?
- Can residents of PA with no ties to Delaware’s workforce enter the state to see doctors or visit family members? And can they also buy gas or groceries, or shop at all open “essential businesses” if they are already in Delaware for medical reasons or take care of a loved one?
Details of the relevant language in the order:
Any individual who enters Delaware from another state, and who is not merely passing through, must immediately self-quarantine for fourteen (14) days from the time of entry into Delaware or for the duration of the individual’s presence in Delaware, whichever period is shorter.
This self-quarantine requirement shall not apply to public health, public safety, or healthcare workers, or any other individual providing assistance to an Essential Business or providing an emergency service related to COVID-19.
This self-quarantine requirement shall not apply to individuals commuting into Delaware to work for an Essential Business or to perform Minimum Business Operations as permitted by the Fifth Modification of the Declaration of a State of Emergency.
State Police say violations will not be considered a crime
Corporal Michael Austin with the Delaware State Police said that law enforcement’s monitoring and enforcement of the order is going to be “consistent with the Governor’s message that it’s going to be informational, educational interaction with anyone that we might be stopped under those circumstances.”
He added that the traffic stops would not be processed as a violation or crime and the drivers with out of state tags cannot be pulled over on I-495, I-295 or I-95. “It is specifically to advise them what the order is and what the expectation is and that it’s in the interest of their health and the overall public safety.”
Should individuals commuting into DE for an essential eusiness bring documentation?
When asked whether any out of state drivers will be required to display something that shows that they are essential workers in Delaware, Corporal Eckerd said the question has come up.
“We don’t have that in place right now,” said Cpl. Eckerd. “But that is something obviously I know some corporations have reached out to us about, and they have advised us that their essential employees will be traveling into Delaware and that they do have documentation stating that they are essential employees.”
UPDATE: At 7:30 Wednesday evening, Town Square Delaware received updated information from the DPH. And on April 2, a representative of the Governor’s office issued a letter to one Delaware restaurant “apologizing for any confusion” and acknowledging the lack of certainty surrounding access of out-of-state residents. The clarified points of the order are:
- Employees who work for essential businesses in Delaware who reside in neighboring states are exempt from this declaration.
- Out-of-state residents are being told to not shop in Delaware for non-medical essential services (groceries, car repairs, etc.) and to follow neighboring states’ stay-at-home orders. Officers were given the right by the DOJ to stop any out-of-state tag to question why they are in the state. If they do not have an essential reason, they will be directed to go home and/or fined.
- This self-quarantine shall not apply to those traveling to care for a family member, friend, or pet in Delaware, or to the transport of family members, friends, pets, or livestock as allowed by this and previous Orders.
- Out-of-state travelers who have doctors appointments or prescriptions in Delaware can cross state lines to receive treatment, but must immediately return to their home state after receiving essential services.
- Anyone who has a second home in Delaware or makes ANY travel into Delaware except for medical reasons must self-quarantine for 14 days.
If I see people or businesses violating the Governor’s orders, who should I call to report this to?
- You should contact local law enforcement or State Police non-emergency lines in your area to report any violations of the State of Emergency Declarations or Emergency Orders.