While Delaware beaches were far less crowded than any Memorial Weekend in memory – a likely combination of so-so weather and limits in place due to the state of emergency declaration – it could bode positively for a more rapid easing of restrictions in the coming weeks.
That was certainly the impression left by Governor John Carney today, who had traveled to the beach this weekend to get a first-hand look himself at how social distancing and mask-wearing measures were being followed on the unofficial kick-off to summer.
Standing on a pier overlooking the Broadkill River, Carney said his favorable observations will play a key part in decisions about reopening the state, particularly regarding restrictions that are disproportionately impacting Delaware’s shoreline economy, including the mandatory 14-day quarantine for non-residents and a ban on short-term rentals.
Carney said he was encouraged by what he saw, and that Delawareans are exercising greater precautions to avoid the invisible threat of the COVID virus.
Coastal towns very different than in March, when ‘crowds rushed to the beach’
“Attitudes have changed in a significant way. I think back to the weekend prior to St. Patrick’s Day in March, where it was a beautiful weekend. We were at the same place we are today for Fort Miles at Cape Henlopen State Park, and the people just rushed onto the beaches in a way that was very unsafe. And it was after that that we had to start to shut things down.”
Carney said he spoke with Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns, the captain of the beach patrol, and business owners about precautions visitors are taking. “They’re ready, the education is out there, the signage is out there. You know, I think we’re ready,” he said.
Drawing an analogy to the men and women who served in our armed services, Carney said it’s clear to him that neighbors are “pitching in” to do their part for the greater good.
“Those who sacrifice that veterans did so as units. They didn’t do it every man for themselves. They did it as a band of brothers, as the movies goes, and that’s what we’ve tried to do over the last three months,” he said.
Ban on short term rentals, 14-day quarantine for out of state visitors still in effect
Carney said he planned to make an announcement tomorrow concerning short-term rentals and possibly the loosening of other restrictions on businesses and retailers.
Carney said his advisors continue to look for ways to enable business sectors to ‘come back online.’
Referring to news reports coming out of Ocean City showing large crowds – most without masks – on the boardwalk, Carney said, “That looks to me not the way to do things. What I saw Rehoboth, and what I’ve heard was the situation along the Delaware coast, is the way to do it — to gradually reopen things so you don’t have this rush this onslaught of folks, which are going wild and and risking all the progress that we’ve made over the last three months,” he said.
“The whole idea is to do it in a gradual kind of way so we don’t have this big onslaught like we saw over the line in Ocean City, and we can gradually move into toward the Fourth of July weekend.”
State needs to come up with better plan for monitoring checkpoints at the state line
When asked about a Delaware State Police checkpoint in eastern Sussex County on Route 1 just North of Nassau that caused “some pretty big backups,” and complaints from local people who got caught up in it, Carney acknowledged he problem and apologized to those affected.
Apparently State Police held up all traffic to stop and talk to out-of-state drivers instead of retire sting Delaware drivers around the 90-minute backup.
“I apologize for that. It’s not the way we wanted it to happen. Basically, it was a way of trying to educate, frankly, out of state visitors of their obligation to quarantine. That whole measure was designed to prevent large crowds to the extent possible to make the rolling reopening for Delawareans. And that created too much of an inconvenience, and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted, I apologize for that.”