Area nonprofits that have been hard hit by COVID-19 pandemic say they are planning to stay the course with holiday offerings, despite new restrictions that ask people to stay home and avoid those not living with them.
Other groups, however, are not so happy with new restrictions. A chamber president said the restrictions show the state doesn’t care about small business and a former representative wants the state to meet with parents and students, not just teachers and district administrators.
The number of COVID cases have been rising to more more than 900 in one day last week. It was 800 on Monday.
Over the weekend, Gov. John Carney issued a warning that more than 300 people were hospitalized because of it. On Saturday, that was 306. On Monday, it was up to 322. He and others have said the state only has 400 to 450 beds for COVID-19 patients without activating emergency plans that create more room by putting temporary beds in at Nemours Hospital for Children.
The governor also told schools to stop in-person classes from Dec. 14 through at least Jan. 11. Many immediately ended them.
The Delaware Art Museum is going full-steam ahead with its plans to have its annual Winter Arts Festival Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It has moved the event, which features dozens of vendors, outside because of COVID-19.
“It’s 100% outside and it is taking place prior to the Dec. 14 date,” said Molly Giordano, interim executive director of the museum. “Carney’s order is, to my understanding, a recommendation and not a requirement. We have the permit and plan to move forward.”
The Grand and its partners will continue with their drive-thru Winter in Wilmington Light Show, which brings people in their own cars to follow a winding course through 40 light displays in Frawley Stadium.
There isn’t much interaction between occupants of the car and people running the event.
“We at The Grand are pleased to have received the go-ahead for the light show even with the new COVID restrictions established this week by the governor,” said Mark Fields, executive director. “Because Light Show patrons stay in their cars and have little contact with our staff and volunteers, it is a perfectly safe way for families to share a little joy this Christmas season. In spite of the pandemic, we want the public to be able to have some holiday fun.”
Winterthur Museum, Gardens and Estate will continue with this season’s pared-down Yuletide tour. It only allows 36 people through the fifth floor of the house. The show usually has decorated rooms on three floors, moving patrons up and down in small elevators. Those elevators are too small to meet the state’s 6-feet social distancing requirements.
Allowing 36 patrons per hour are only 26 percent of the museum’s normal capacity, so when Carney asked museums to return to 30 percent capacity, Winterthur didn’t have to change a thing, said Deborah Harper, senior curator of education at Winterthur.
The former duPont estate will, however, add more hours to the tour, because it has been selling out. In addition to switching the tour to self-guided, Winterthur has added outdoor decor for the first time, including a waterfall filled with silver balls that flow down to the pond and appear on the pool.
Not everyone is thrilled with Carney’s restrictions.
Bob Older, president of the Delaware Small Business Chamber in Newark, said it’s another blow for businesses.
“Instead of building confidence to consumers, this governor and staff have done the opposite and are hurting small businesses every way they can,” Older sasid. “Now, with minimum wage bill and the fact he won’t come out and publicly announce that he would veto, it is just another indication on how they don’t care about small business owners in Delaware.”
Greg Lavelle, a former Republican state senator, wants the Delaware Department of Education to meet with parents and students as well as educators and district leadershhip.
“My question for the moment to you and Gov. Carney is where is the similar opportunity and dedicated email address for parents and students?” Lavelle said in a letter he copied to press. “While I appreciate and support the effort to provide teachers and administrators the opportunity to ‘discuss,’ what about the ‘customers’ of the DOE – students and parents? This is a glaring and incredibly tone-deaf omission.”
Carney asked parents to keep their children safe by avoiding play dates, sleepovers and birthday parties.
“Where,” Lavelle asks, “is the similar message to educators and other school employees who interact with and possibly spread the virus from themselves to students? This does happen as I’m sure you know. I am certainly aware that it does as it has specifically impacted our family.”
He said Tuesday morning that he had not gotten a response to his letter.
“Crickets,” he said. “i think it makes my point. For elected officials to not respond to me at all, I think is horrible and insulting. It’s very disappointing, and I guarantee you I’m not the only person out there who is singularly disappointed.”
Scott Stein of Bardea Food & Drink didn’t quite shrug off last week’s announcement of the new restrictions, but he’s staying the course.
“I am used to the punches at this point,” said the Wilmington restaurant owner whose Market Street business with his brother, Antimo DiMeo, has had to cope with shutdowns, learn to focus on takeout and figure out how to safely serve diners inside and out in hot and cold weather.
“I may be a dreamer but I have no choice but to stay strong and continue to fight. Business as usual for us,” Stein said. “We will continue to follow the guidelines and serve the community safely. I will do whatever it takes.”
He said that two hours before Carney announced restrictions, he was assuring his staff “that Antimo and I would never turn our backs on them, especially during the holidays.
“We will take it one day at a time.”