Here comes the sun, and Gov. John Carney’s eighth revision of this COVID-19 emergency order eases restrictions on the number attending outdoor events such as weddings, sports and fishing from the beach.
It does not, however, increase the indoor or outdoor capacity for Delaware’s restaurants as Easter — a prime time to dine out with families — approaches this weekend. That remains restricted to 50%.
Carrie Leishman, CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association, was dismayed to read the order when it was released Monday.
“We are now behind all of our neighboring states in reopening our restaurants to more capacity,” she said. “We are now one of the most stringent in the county, if not the most strict, at the amount of people we can seat at a table. And what that means is that on Easter Sunday, families can’t dine together with their fully vaccinated relatives.”
The state’s restaurants are losing business to Maryland and Pennsylvania, and the restrictions are hurting Delaware’s unemployment rate, she said.
“Delaware unemployment has increased from January to February because of these restrictions,” she said. “Our unemployment rate is higher than the national average. Restaurants have been hurt more than any other business sector in this state and those jobs matter. There’s no science or data that show opening our spaces will hurt the health of Delawareans.”
As the weather gradually warms, with occasional bursts of glorious weather, Carney’s eighth revision allows 15o people to gather at weddings and funerals, says more than two people can watch sporting events in person and authorizes the sale of an additional 1,000 surf fishing vehicle tags for the 2021 season.
The changes take effect at 8 a.m. Thursday, April 1.
Among his changes :
- Outdoor gatherings in spaces with no fire occupancy restrictions are limited to 150 people. More may attend if a plan for the event is approved by the Division of Public Health. The events targeted by this provision include outdoor weddings, funerals, concerts, parades, festivals, conventions, fundraisers, sporting events and fairs.
- Outdoor venues with fire occupancy restrictions and with more than 100,000 square feet of public space must limit occupancy to 50 percent of stated fire capacity. If that is more than 150 people, the state must approve the event’s plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
- Outdoor venues with fire occupancy restrictions and with less than 100,000 square feet of public space must limit occupancy to 75 percent of stated fire capacity.More than 150 must be approved.
- Spectators at sporting events are no longer limited to just two people per player. No limits are mentioned in the order, but it does say all people attending practices and games must wear a face covering and be at least six feet apart, unless waiting in their car. A group of parents about a month ago had started another round of petitions to get Carney to #letuswatch.
- Another round of 1,000 Surf Fishing Permit vehicle tags will go on sale after the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control sold the first 17,000 in record time this year. Carney’s order said it was allowing more to be sold to increase options for safe outdoor activities.
- Indoor gatherings or events at any business or indoor space open to the public remain limited to the lesser of 50% of stated fire occupancy or 25 people.
Plans for outdoor events and gatherings should be submitted to DPH by emailing HSPContact@delaware.gov at least seven days prior to the event.
Surf tag rules
Those who wish to purchase one of the additional 1,000 regular Surf-Fishing Permits must first acquire a special voucher on a date to be determined. the Division of Parks and Recreation announced Monday.
Each voucher will allow for the purchase of one 2021 Surf-Fishing Permit, which will cost $90 for residents and $180 for out-of-staters. They are limited to one per person.
DNREC also said:
- The person obtaining the voucher does not have to be the permit holder. If the interested permit holder is not available on the day of the voucher distribution, the voucher may be obtained by a designee with proper information for the permit.
- The vehicle license plate number and vehicle registration name for which the permit will be purchased is required to obtain a voucher. Vouchers are nontransferable.
- The permits will be valid until Dec. 31, 2021, and available to residents and non-residents.
- At the close of business on the date of voucher distribution, no additional permits will be issued, even if all vouchers are not claimed.
- There will be no online sales.
Firefighters and EMTs must present a signed application form from their fire company when redeeming a voucher to obtain a 2021 Surf-Fishing Permit.
New off-peak surf-fishing permit
DNREC also is launching an Off-Peak Surf-Fishing Permit pilot program starting in late May. The off-peak permits will allow anglers to drive-on surf fish during times when Delaware State Park beaches are not at capacity.
Unprecedented sales and the need to allow more anglers and beach users to safely social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the decision to introduce the pilot program.
They will cost $70 for residents and $140 for others and may be used Mondays through Fridays only, starting June 1 through Sept. 3. Memorial Day and Labor Day are excluded. Starting Tuesday, Sept. 7 through Dec. 31, the off-peak permit may be used seven days a week.
For more information, including answers to frequently asked questions, go to www.destateparks.com.