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Wednesday, January 19, 2022
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State sees 5th straight day of decline in hospitalizations

Coronavirus test concept - vial sample tube with cotton swab, red checkmark next to word positive, blurred vials and blue nitrile gloves background. (Sticker is own design with dummy data) (Coronavirus test concept - vial sample tube with cotton swab,
Delaware saw its fifth straight day of declining Covid-19 hospitalizations,  the Delaware Division of Public Health reported. New cases fell below 1,200.
 
The numbers indicate that Delaware may have seen a plateau in hospitalizations and new cases seen elsewhere on the East Coast.
 
As of Monday night,  the total number of Covid-related deaths remained unchanged at  2,424. 
 
The other numbers
 
• 1,147 new positive cases, bringing the overall total to 230,876. The cumulative breakdown by county: New Castle, 132,118 cases; Kent, 43,674; Sussex, 54,224; county not yet known, 860.
• 28.8% of total tests were positive in the seven-day rolling average, down eight-tenths of a percent from the previous day.
• 683 current hospitalizations, down 22 from the previous day,  including 71 individuals in critical condition.
• 32 new hospital admissions, up 12 from the previous day.
• 8,918 tests performed daily in the seven-day average, up 15 from the previous day).
• 634,068 people fully vaccinated, up 72 from the previous day, according to the CDC Vaccine Tracker.
• 1,638,454 total vaccine doses, up 79 from the previous day, according to the CDC Vaccine Tracker.
 
For more data, including breakdowns by age, sex, race/ethnicity, at the statewide, county, and, in some cases, zip code or census tract level, click here.
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Delaware Electric Co-op to buy power from 7 new solar farms

Delaware Electric Cooperative announced seven new utility-scale solar projects during the next three years.

The nonprofit cooperative based in Greenwood will purchase power produced at  facilities to be built in  Kent and Sussex Counties.

The projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2024 and are part of efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Solar sites near Hartly in Kent County and Greenwood in Sussex County will go into operation this year.

Work is nearly complete on a large solar farm near Hartly that will power hundreds of Kent County homes. The renewable energy project is being built by Tangent Energy Solutions based in Kennett Square, PA and financed by Madison Energy Investments based in Vienna, VA.

Delaware Electric Cooperative will purchase the power produced at the site at a competitive cost and deliver it to member homes, farms, and businesses. The cost of solar power has dropped over the years making it competitive with other energy sources

Once completed in March, 10 acres of solar panels at the Tangent solar energy farm along Lockwood Chapel Road will be capable of producing 1.5 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough electricity to power 260 homes. The facility is being built in DEC’s service territory and power flow directly onto the co-op’s distribution system.

Construction will also begin this year on largerf 4.5-megawatt Heimlich Solar Facility that will power about 900 Sussex County homes, farms, and businesses. 

The project is a partnership between Delaware Electric Cooperative and Old Dominion Electric Cooperative. Old Dominion  is owned by DEC and ten other not-for-profit electric cooperatives. 

The 35-acre facility is being built along Mile Stretch Road just west of Greenwood.  Once completed, the site will feature nearly 16,000 individual solar panels.

The project is being managed by EDF Renewables Distributed Solutions, a developer of solar and battery storage projects in North America. The site, which is expected to begin producing power in late 2022, is named after Delaware native Henry Heimlich, who invented the Heimlich Maneuver. The maneuver has saved lives from those choking on food.

Old Dominion also operates a large natural gas fired plant in northeastern Maryland that provides electricity to member co-ops.

Delaware Electric  is also working with ODEC and EDF to purchase the energy that will be produced at the Broom Solar Facility to be built near Ocean View in Sussex County. The solar farm will produce enough energy to power hundreds of Delaware homes when completed in 2023.

Delaware Electric  has also signed agreements with EDF to purchase power generated at four new solar facilities to be built near Clayton, Harrington, Felton and Milford. Once completed by 2024, the four solar projects will generate enough electricity  to power thousands of additional DEC homes.

According to CEO Greg Starheim, “The construction of the new solar facilities will allow the co-op to continue to provide clean power to our members while also helping to keep our rates affordable. Solar power will play an important role in our energy mix as we work to lower our carbon footprint and reduce our impact on the environment.”

In addition to the new solar projects just announced by the Cooperative, DEC’s nearly 40-acre Bruce A. Henry Solar Farm near Georgetown has been providing members with renewable energy since 2012. Through energy efficiency programs, the Co-op has reduced its carbon footprint by 46 percent since 2005.

Delaware Electric Cooperative is a member-owned not-for-profit utility powering more than 108,000 homes, farms and businesses in Kent and Sussex Counties.

Further information is available at www.delaware.coop.

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Bill introduced that would adjust state income tax brackets for inflation

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Two Republican legislators  say a bill they have introduced will reduce the effects of  income tax “bracket creep”
 
House Bill 278, sponsored by State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro and State Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, would require the state’s personal income tax brackets to be annually adjusted for inflation.
 
Rep. Collins said Delaware’s income tax rates hurt low- and moderate-income Delawareans the most. 
 
Bracket creep has not been much of an issue until the recent bout with inflation, since wages in Delaware often remained stagnant and cost of living wage increases were modest.
 
Delaware has one of the nation’s higher income tax rates. Last year,  Republican legislators proposed  lowering income tax rates, while progressive Democrats wanted to add tax brackets for those making the highest incomes.
 
At the same time, many Republicans have opposed raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
 
“The value of cost-of-living raises earned by low- and moderate-income Delawareans is being eroded by our state’s rigid tax system,”   Collins said. “Wages growing in recognition of inflation are being taxed at higher rates as those earnings are pushed over static tax bracket thresholds. It amounts to state theft by inefficiency.”
 
Lawson agreed that inflationary ‘tax bracket creep’ hits working Delawareans the hardest. “Our tax rates should keep pace with inflation to maintain balance and equity with wages,” he said. “Working families facing higher expenses need every dollar to which they’re entitled, especially at a time when the cost of essentials is rapidly rising.”
 
Under the measure, Delaware’s income tax rates would be adjusted annually by an amount equal to the change in the Consumer Price Index prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for urban consumers. If enacted, the legislation would take effect at the start of 2023.
 
The bill is pending action in the House Revenue & Finance Committee.
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PM Hotel Group adds D.C-based management company

PM Hotel Group announced its merger with Modus Hotels.

PM manages the Hotel Du Pont and seven other hospitality properties in northern Delaware. Based near Washington, DC, PM is affiliated with Wilmington-based Buccini/Pollin Group, a real estate development company.

Modus manages hotels in the Washington, DC area, Illinois and Philadelphia.

“Our approach and values have been aligned with Modus’ for years. The opportunity now to join together to harness our combined talent, teamwork and expertise positions us to scale while raising the overall level of service excellence for our guests,” said Joseph Bojanowski, president of PM Hotel Group. “Over time we will integrate our current roster of independent and branded luxury and lifestyle hotels with the existing Modus collection.”

Modus Hotel’s portfolio includes upscale lifestyle and micro hotels that attract today’s independent-minded travelers, a release stated.

“I am incredibly proud of the team we’ve built at Modus. PM recognized our expertise in managing lifestyle hotels through our relentless focus on guest experience and colleague engagement which enables us to drive outsized returns for our owners,” said Adam Gollance, CEO of Modus. “Leveraging PM’s technology and scale with our skill of delivering exceptional lifestyle experiences positions us for exciting development opportunities.”

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From WHYY: Many in Delaware see mask mandate as a way to ‘get out of this hole

Visits to multiple businesses in New Castle County  found extremely high, if not absolute, levels of compliance at several establishments, including a Dollar Tree, Trader Joe’s, YMCA, pharmacy, supermarket, liquor store and a take-out eatery.

The owner of one  business in Wilmington’s Trolley Square area kept the mask mandate ordered last week by Gov. John Carney in place, even after it was first lifted by the governor last year.

She admits to getting  pushback  but does not mind showing  unhappy would-be customers the door.

The mandate was ordered after  a spike in Covid-19 related hospitalizations put severe stress on the state’s acute care hospitals.

Click on the headline below for the full story from WHYY.

Many see Delaware’s latest mask mandate as a way ‘to get out of this hole’

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State to distribute 125,000 KN95 masks to schools, child care providers

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A  one-time distribution of 125,000 KN95 masks to educators, students grades six and above, and childcare providers across the state has been announced.

Masks will be distributed to Delaware’s public, private, and parochial schools and childcare providers through school and childcare liaisons.

The KN95 masks screen are more effective than widely used cloth and surgical masks in stopping the smaller droplets from the fast-spreading Covid-19 Omicron variant.

“There is nothing more important than making sure our children can remain learning in the classrooms,” said  Carney. “We have learned the importance of multi-layer masks and masks that fit snugly on your face. We hope that this mask distribution will help students and educators continue to slow the surge of Covid-19 as they have throughout the pandemic. Parents, families and teachers should expect more guidance from their schools about when they can pick-up their masks.”

Districts, charter schools, private schools, and child care facilities will receive KN95 masks from the state to support their in-person instruction efforts.

Child care providers will need to pre-register through a link that will be sent from the Delaware Department of Education. If you do not receive the email with the registration link by the close of business on Wednesday, Jan. 19, you can email mask.distribution@doe.k12.de.us to be assisted with the registration.

 “Our school and child care leaders are working hard to keep our buildings open for in-person learning through operational challenges caused by the current COVID-19 surge,” said Dr. Mark Holodick, secretary of the Delaware Department of Education. “This is another support to help them do that, and I appreciate the state prioritizing these masks for our children, educators, school staff and childcare workers.”

This announcement after Governor  signed a universal indoor mask mandate and extended the school mask requirement.

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Wilmington Courtyard on the auction block

A downtown Wilmington hotel is  up for auction.

A listing for the Courtyard by Marriott Wilmington indicates that an online auction will take place from  Feb. 28 to March 2.

The 10-story 126-room Courtyard by Marriott is located at 
1102 N West Street.
 
The minimum bid for the hotel is  $4.7 million.
 
The last hotel auction resulted in a $19.5 million purchase  for the Sheraton South hotel in the New Castle area, off I-95.
 
New Castle County was the successful bidder for the property, which was converted into the Hope Center which houses and provides services for the homeless.
 
Downtown hotels in many cities have been hit by the lack of business travel during the Covid-19  pandemic.
 
Leisure travel, especially at the Delaware beach, recovered during the summer of 2020.
 
Conducting  the auction is 10-X, with SVN Real Estate affiliates serving as agents.
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Artesian closes on $6.4 million purchase of Tidewater’s Sussex wastewater utility

Artesian Resources Corp.’s  subsidiary, Artesian Wastewater Management, Inc.,  closed on its $6.4 million purchase of  Tidewater Environmental Services, Inc. a regulated wastewater utility.

The acquisition  adds approximately 3,600 wastewater customers, seven wastewater facilities, and 13,000 acres of exclusive franchise territory to Artesian’s  systems in Sussex County.  “This transaction is in the best long-term interest of the TESI customers and our shareholders. Artesian is committed to serving its new and existing customers with integrity and reliability and in a manner that respects the environment and preserves the water cycle,” said Dian C. Taylor,  CEO of Artesian.

Artesian uses spray irrigation techniques to recycle treated effluent onto agricultural land, where it recharges and replenishes aquifers and provides water for crops.

“We have invested millions in technological and infrastructure upgrades to ensure our processes are environmentally sustainable, cost-effective, safe and responsible. We share with Delaware’s residents a deep appreciation and understanding of our state’s critical habitats and natural resources,” Taylor said.

AWMI has provided wastewater services in Delaware for over two decades, disposing over 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater from homes and businesses throughout the state at six different facilities during 2021.
 

“Our acquisition of TESI will allow AWMI to obtain further operational synergies and regionalization of systems providing wastewater service in Sussex County, Delaware. That includes further optimization of our Sussex Regional Recharge Facility near Milton, which is well equipped to serve local businesses and rapidly growing communities in the area. I am confident that our operations will play a critical role in creating lasting solutions for wastewater management in an environmentally responsible way,” said David Spacht, president of Artesian Wastewater Management, Inc.

Artesian is based near Newark and operates water and sewage systems in Delaware and Cecil County, MD.

Tidewater is a subsidiary  of New Jersey-based Middlesex Water Co. The company operates water systems in portions of New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties.

 

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Covid-related hospitalizations decline for fourth straight day

Delaware saw a fourth straight day of declines in hospitalizations, according to the Monday summary from the Delaware Division of Public Health.
 
The 705 figure as of Sunday night remains well above the 474 hospitalization peak reported nearly a year ago.
 
Last week, Gov. John Carney brought back a mandate ordering masks in nearly all public places in response to the rising number of hospitalizations and positive cases.
 
Other numbers
  • No new  deaths reported, keeping the total number of Covid-related fatalities at 2,424.
  • 2,093 new positive cases, bringing the overall total to 229,759. The cumulative breakdown by county: New Castle, 131,345 cases; Kent, 43,544; Sussex, 54,011; county not yet known, 859.
  • 29.6% of total tests were positive in the seven-day rolling average, down eight-tenths of a percent from the previous day).
  • 705 current hospitalizations, down six from the previous day,  including 77 individuals in critical condition.
  • 20 new hospital admissions (down five from the previous day).
  • 8,903 tests performed daily in the seven-day average, down 334 from the previous day).
For more data, including breakdowns by age, sex, race/ethnicity, at the statewide, county, and, in some cases, ZIP code or census tract level: https://myhealthycommunity.dhss.delaware.gov/locations/state
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Freshened version of marijuana legalization bill introduced

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A freshened version of a bill to legalize marijuana for personal use has been introduced.

The bill, sponsored by many Democratic legislators, has no GOP co-sponsors. Its sponsor, once again, is state Rep. Ed Osienski, a Newark-area legislator.

The bill allows adults over the age of 21 to legally possess and consume less than an ounce of marijuana for personal use but bans individuals from growing their cannabis.

In the last session, the bill ran into the usual opposition from AAA Mid-Atlantic and the medical community. 

Medical marijuana dispensaries that have been gearing up to add recreational cannabis were also unhappy with a provision that would allow smaller operators and those with nonviolent criminal records  to gain licenses. 

Under the bill, marijuana sellers would be subject to many of the restrictions faced by alcoholic beverage sellers.

The bill has separate licensing requirements for retail marijuana stores, marijuana testing facilities, marijuana cultivation facilities, and marijuana product manufacturing facilities.

Licensing requirements also differ between open licenses, social equity licenses that allow individuals who may have a nonviolent criminal record to apply, and microbusiness licenses.

Marijuana for recreational use would be taxed, with backers claiming legalization would boost the state’s finances.

A new provision would earmark a small  portion of taxes in aiding the quality of life in communities affected by the “war on drugs.” These communities saw a disproportionate percentage of minorities going to jail for drug offenses, while many white offenders had lesser penalties.

“This is the best version of a legalization bill that has been introduced in Delaware,” said Zoë Patchell, executive director of Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network. “It includes so many voices from those who have weighed in on this thoughtfully crafted and thoroughly examined legislation. Between ending the arrests, incorporating micro and social equity licenses to create an inclusive industry, and the newly included Justice Reinvestment Fund, this bill will benefit Delawareans in urban, suburban, and rural communities, from the bridge to the beaches.”

“Delaware NORML supports the changes included in the latest revision of the bill, especially the Justice Reinvestment Fund, which aims to give back to the communities ravaged by this failed war on a plant,” said Laura Sharer Delaware executive director. “We hope to see lawmakers come together this year to change Delaware’s outdated policy, which has harmed and continues to harm so many.”

Six in ten Delaware residents, according to a University of Delaware poll.

However, the bill faces the daunting obstacle of getting a supermajority of legislators to vote yes and a reluctant governor to sign it.

 The state’s Constitution has no provision for a direct vote from residents that helped bring legal marijuana to many states.

Delaware is listed as one of the states where marijuana legalization could pass by the Marijuana Moment website. However, one negative is  Carney stopping short of saying he would sign a legalization bill, the site noted.

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