@VALUEZTV MORNING EDITION
Delaware shoppers will be allowed back in retail businesses by appointment only beginning Wednesday at 8 a.m., Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday afternoon.
In what Carney's office calls "an interim step," retailers may accept two appointments per half-hour and must adhere to strict social distancing guidance from the state and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since May 9, retail businesses have been limited to curbside pickup, and barbershops and salons have been allowed to serve only essential workers. They were all entirely shut down during the eight weeks prior.
"We do not want to open a day too early or a day too late, and that has been a difficult balance to strike," Carney said at a press briefing Tuesday.
Carney also announced Tuesday that restaurants, bars, taprooms and craft breweries may apply to expand outdoor seating to serve additional customers when they reopen. The applications will be available Friday.
Delaware's hospitals can resume elective medical procedures, Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the state's Division of Public Health, announced Tuesday. Medical centers must have a two-week supply of personal protective equipment in order to offer non-urgent appointments and procedures.
The first phase of Delaware's economic reopening plan, which will allow retailers and restaurants to open at 30% of fire capacity, isofficially set to begin June 1. But in the past several days, Carney has started to loosen restrictions on many different businesses.
On Monday, Carney released new guidance for places of worship, allowing groups to host expanded in-person services under certain restrictions. Baptisms, weddings and funerals are allowed if the services follow the social distancing rules.
Last week, Carney announced the Delaware beaches and community pools will reopen Friday at 5 p.m.
Carney said the rate of positive tests and the number of residents hospitalized have been encouraging enough to take gradual steps to reopen. Carney said the state is still trying to determine why the hospitalization is low, given the high number of cases per capita in Sussex County.
He urged Delawareans not to rush out to restaurants and businesses Memorial Day weekend.
Delaware health officials on Tuesday reported seven additional deaths related to the coronavirus and 168 new cases. To date, 8,037 residents have tested positive and 304 have died.
According to the state's latest figures, 3,760 residents who tested positive have recovered and 236 are hospitalized.
Sussex County, Delaware's southernmost county, reported 43 new cases Tuesday, raising the county's tally to 3,760. The infection rate in Sussex County is more than triple that of New Castle County, Delaware's most populous county.
To date, New Castle County has reported 2,845 cases, and Kent County has reported 1,238 cases. New Castle County has reported the most deaths, 135.
The deaths reported Tuesday ranged in age from 38 to 94. Six of the individuals had underlying health conditions, and five were residents of long-term care facilities.
Retail establishments covered by Tuesday's announcement include clothing and shoe stores, used merchandise retailers and florists. A full list and additional details are available on the state's website. In phase one, cloth face coverings still must be worn in public and interstate travel restrictions will still be in place.
Businesses have received general guidance on how to clean and sanitize in addition to specific rules for their type of business, Damian DiStefano, director of Delaware's Division of Small Business, said Tuesday.
"We're not making this stuff up," Carney said. "I'm not making this stuff up. This is advice we're getting from the federal CDC.
"At some level, I think you've got to cut to the chase with respect to messaging and why these restrictions and requirements are put in place. It's not to annoy people; it's to protect others and the community, so they can do what they want to do."
Delaware is hosting drive-thru saliva-based COVID-19 testing events on Thursday at Middletown High School from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday at the Dover DMV from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The state recommends preregistering at delaware.curativeinc.com. Those being tested should not eat, drink or brush their teeth 20 minutes before the test.
More information is available at de.gov/testing.