Gov. John Carney ordered Delaware residents to stay at home and closed nonessential businesses in the state starting Tuesday at 8 a.m.
Delaware joins Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and several other states in enacting harsher restrictions beginning this week in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge nationwide.
Delaware health officials announced 11 additional cases Sunday afternoon — the most confirmed in a single day — bringing Delaware's tally to 56.
Under Carney's stay-at-home order residents can leave their homes for medical care, to shop for groceries, to go to work if their employer is permitted to stay open and to exercise with proper social-distancing.
Car dealerships, clothing stores, performing arts companies and schools are among the nonessential activities ordered to close by Carney. Restaurants will be allowed to continue carry-out and delivery business.
In a public address via livestream Sunday evening, Carney offered several reasons for the order. Chief among them: too many people didn't take previous restrictions and guidelines serious enough.
"I don't want Delaware to be the example of what not to do in response to this crisis," Carney said. "I understand that these restrictions will have real consequences for real people but the consequences of not imposing these restrictions are way too serious."
The source of exposure for many of Delaware's positive cases is unknown, which health officials have said indicates community spread.
Six people are currently hospitalized and three are critically ill, officials said.
Seven of the cases announced Sunday were in New Castle County and four were in Sussex County. There are now 39 cases in New Castle County, five cases in Kent County and 12 cases in Sussex County.
Delaware's restrictions are now more consistent with New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which have both close nonessential businesses. New Jersey is under a similar stay-at-home order that took effect Saturday night. Philadelphia residents have also been ordered to stay at home starting at 8 a.m. Monday.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there were 6,389 cases confirmed nationwide Saturday — the most confirmed in the U.S. in a single day. Much of the growth in confirmed cases has been concentrated in the northeast, and specifically New York, which accounts for about 40% of U.S. cases.
New Jersey announced 590 confirmed cases Sunday, bringing the state's total to 1,914. Twenty people have died from the virus.
Delaware had taken several steps toward a wide-scale shut down at the end of last week.
In an interview with MSNBC Saturday, Gov. John Carney said the state is preparing to "shut down businesses and tighten up restrictions at the beginning of next week."
All Delaware courts will close Monday until at least April 15. Limited staff will focus on handling emergency and essential matters and will operate the 24-hour Justice of the Peace Courts in each county. All others will work remotely.
The Delaware Department of Correction is restricting access to its facilities for volunteers older than 60 or those with underlying health conditions. The DOC has already suspended visitation and increased its sanitation measures, in addition to screening everyone who enters its facilities.
Many of Delaware's beach towns announced their own restrictions Saturday, some before Carney's order, including the closure of the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk where businesses can now only offer take out or delivery.
Carney issued a similar order halting dining in at restaurants last week after Delawareans continued to crowd bars and restaurants. Schools are closed for at least another week but will likely stay closed longer, Carney has said.
As more people become tested, the number of cases in Delaware and throughout the region is expected to rise. A new round of testing will begin Monday at undisclosed locations in all three Delaware counties.