Restaurant closing time, capacity curbs to be revisited

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Gov. John Carney said current restrictions on retail stores and restaurants will be re-examined in the post-holiday period.

Carney spoke at the weekly coronavirus briefing on Tuesday

Restaurants and bars are now limited to 30 percent occupancy, down from 50 percent and now have a mandatory 10 p.m. closing time.  Big box stores with more than 100,000 square feet are limited to 20 percent occupancy, with other retail stores at 30 percent.

The holiday restrictions were ordered as the state saw a surge in Covid-19  cases while facing the possibility of more cases after the holidays. 

Restaurants were critical of the move, claiming that Covid-19 cases are coming from family gatherings, rather than dining rooms. 

State contact tracing information suggests that restaurants are the top establishment visited by those testing positive.

Next week, the state could begin to see cases arising from Christmas get-togethers.

Carney and public health officials had advised residents to avoid travel or visits with family members who don’t live in the same home. Travel was widespread over the holidays but well below the level of previous years.

One closely watched figure will be the number of hospitalizations, which have remained above 400 in recent weeks, well above the low point in the 100 area during one period in the summer.

New Covid-19 cases have been hovering around 700,  several times higher than the summer low.

Neighboring Pennsylvania took more drastic action and shut down indoor dining during the holidays. As of Jan. 4, restaurants were allowed to resume indoor dining, with the exception of Philadelphia which continues to ban indoor dining. Pennsylvania has seen a higher rate of Covid-19 than Delaware. 

Maryland, which has a lower Covid-19 rate than the First State, opted for 10 p.m. closings for bars and restaurants.

Carney noted that the state while seeing a Covid-19 lower testing rate over the holidays has been recording  100,000 or more tests a month, with the total number of tests since the pandemic passing the one million mark.

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