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Monday, May 17, 2021

Carney reinstitutes Freedom of Information requests

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Freedom of Information Act
Page with FOIA The Freedom of Information Act on the table with stethoscope, medical concept.

Gov. John Carney changed his State of Emergency order Friday to allow Freedom of Information Act requests to be answered.

His had frozen them, ordering that the state would not be required to answer any pending or new requests until 15 days after the pandemic ended.

In other changes to the emergency order, Carney spelled out that private and parochial schools must tell the state when a student or worker had tested positive. The press release made it clear that they already are, but the change codifies it.

The governor also streamlined the process that groups must follow in order to have events larger than 250, which can include both public things like sports events and private things like weddings.

Read the full order here.

FOIA requests

Freedom of Information Act requests are used by journalists, community activitists, trade organizations and more to ask for more information on various topics. A playbook of rules governs what is answered and how it’s answered, but it starts with a request reviewed by state legal teams.

Journalists have asked Carney during his weekly press COVID-19 press conference to change the rule. He explained a few weeks ago that the reason it was frozen was because those legal teams were needed in other areas because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that didn’t stop people from asking and writing about it on social media. WDEL reporter Amy Cherry addressed it Friday morning.

Group gatherings

Carney’s new modification asks groups to submit plans for gatherings to HSPContact@delaware.gov at least seven days prior to the event. Outdoor gatherings and events pose a lower risk of infection and are strongly encouraged. Plan approval is at the discretion of the Division of Public Health. Among other things, the plan must meet the following requirements:

  1. The plan must show a strict adherence to guidelines.
  2. The plan must consider information regarding the number of people attending who are at greater risk of more serious illness.
  3. The plan must consider information regarding the density of attendees within a confined area, trying to keep people from being within 6 feet of each other for 10 minutes or more.
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