Carney increases restaurant, retail occupancy rates to 50%

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Gov. John Carney increased occupancy rates for restaurants, stores, and gyms from 30 to 50 percent as Delaware sees a decline in the number of coronavirus cases and hospital stays.

The change becomes effective at 8 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 12. Occupancy inside restaurants, retail locations, gyms, houses of worship, arts venues, and other business locations must not exceed 50 percent of stated fire capacity. Businesses must continue to follow social distancing and other restrictions issued by local and state governments.

The restaurant industry had hoped to see at least 60 percent occupancy, a figure that some operators view as a breakeven point. Owners say restrictions on table spacing reduce 50 percent occupancies below that figure.

The Delaware Restaurant Associated noted that the following restrictions still apply.

  • Table size is still limited to six guests from the same household (with appropriate signage on each table) – no more than four adults
  • Indoor gatherings or events at any business or indoor space open to the public of up to the lesser of 50 percent stated fire occupancy or ten 10 people (weddings and receptions, graduations, birthday parties, funeral receptions, etc.) and private indoor gatherings or events of up to ten persons (dinner parties, house parties, birthday parties)
  • Any common areas where people would typically stand or engage in other activities must be off limits if not otherwise occupied by tables with seated patrons, unless the establishment can create a facility-specific plan for such activities.The use of dance floors, arcade/bar game areas, pool tables, and similar spaces is not permitted until plans are approved by DPH.

Carney’s modification also allows youth and amateur sports tournaments to resume if the Division approves Public Health (DPH) plans. Delawareans who travel out of state for sports tournaments and competitions are strongly encouraged, but no longer required, to self-quarantine.

Carney also issued the Sixth Modification, which requires Delaware vaccination providers to report complete demographic information within 24 hours of administering a vaccine to the Delaware Immunization Information System (DelVAX).

Delaware has seen a sharply lower vaccination rate among Black and Hispanic residents when compared to whites.

Some of this may be due to vaccinations not reporting ethnic information.

Failure to comply with data reporting requirements in Thursday’s order may result in providers’ fines and vaccine allocation reductions.

“We are administering more vaccines each day, and we continue to see improvement in our Covid-19 case rates and hospitalizations statewide. That’s good news, but it’s no reason to let our guard down,” said Carney. “We need to make sure we’re distributing the vaccine equitably across our state. That is a priority. And we need to limit community spread of this virus. We know what works. Until we can vaccinate enough Delawareans, continue to wear a mask. Avoid gatherings. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s stay vigilant.”

Additionally, Thursday’s modification extends consumer and voting protections during the Covid-19 crisis.

Also, at 9 a.m. on Friday, a modification strengthens a previous prohibition on price gouging. It also allows Delawareans to cast absentee ballots in 2021 municipal elections.

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