Updated: Bar areas in coastal Sussex ordered to close this weekend due to coronavirus outbreak

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Governor issues protections for those facing evictions, foreclosure

Delaware Gov. John Carney announced that beach bars will be closed this weekend, following an outbreak of coronavirus that has moved beyond teens and restaurant workers to full and part-time residents.

Carney made the announcement during a weekly press briefing that included the signing of budget bills. The state’s fiscal year ends on June 30.

The order allows restaurants to remain open with drinks delivered to the table. However, congregating or “bellying up to the bar” is not allowed in much of Coastal Sussex County. Bars have been the source of “super spread” of the virus in other areas and are suspected in a rash of Covid-19 cases in coastal Sussex.

The order apparently quashed plans for a fireworks show by nightclub owner, lawyer and banker Alex Pires, who had been moving forward with a fireworks show in Dewey beach despite opposition from the town.

Pires announced on his Facebook page that Carney had canceled the fireworks display that would have drawn crowds to the beach town.

The modification of the emergency alsoincludes protections for Delawareans who may face foreclosure or eviction filings.

Effective at 8 a.m. on July 1, filings for foreclosures and evictions can resume, but will continue to be stayed to permit the Justice of the Peace Courts to determine whether the parties would benefit from a court-supervised mediation or alternative dispute resolution. That process may include identifying access to housing support services through the Delaware State Housing Authority.

Local sheriffs and constables are directed to refrain from removing individuals from residential properties unless a Delaware court determines that enforcement is necessary in the interest of justice. In addition, utility companies must offer four-month payment plans to those affected by COVID who were unable to pay utility bills during the height of the pandemic, and insurance companies must offer 90-day repayment plans for those affected by COVID who failed to make premium payments during the height of the pandemic.

Carney is not alone in ordering bar closings. The governors of Texas and Florida have made similar moves due to much bigger outbreaks. Carney said he wants to avoid a similar surge in cases. The governor was interviewed on CNN later in the day.

Carney said the state has no plans to move to Phase 3 by July 4 due to an outbreak of cases in eastern Sussex County and “complacency” in wearing facemasks and social distancing.

The uptick comes as the number of hospitalizations have dropped sharply.

The state is beginning to see an upturn in the percentage of positive tests has increased to five percent after dropping into the two percent category.

Carney noted that the 18-34 age group is accounting for much of the growth in new cases.

“We’re concerned about the phenomena we have seen in the state,” Carney said.

“Too many people have paid too high a price,” Carney said in announcing the decision to close the bars.

Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay, said earlier outbreaks that had been related to senior week have since spread to restaurant workers, lifeguards and even permanent residents.

Cases involving permanent and part-time residents, many of whom are older, are an area of concern.

By contrast, the percentage of the population testing positive in Kent and Sussex County has remained flat.

Rattay said photographs and reports on social media and elsewhere show many people, including restaurant workers, are not wearing masks.

Rattay added that the many beach restaurants have been “doing the right thing,” in dealing with the difficult tasks of dealing with customers who are defying the state’s mandate for face masks.

Enforcement remains an option, with business violators facing $1,000 fines and cease and desist orders, Rattay said.

Rattay said Delaware is doing somewhat better than other states in its contact tracing efforts when people test positive. The state has moved to a new system after the National Guard was pressed into service. Rattay and Carney have praised the efforts of the Guard.

The Carney administration continues to take heat for its actions related to the pandemic.

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