Monday, June 1, is the target date to begin Phase 1 of Delaware’s economic reopening, Gov. John Carney announced May 8. Getting to Phase 1, he said, is contingent on containing the COVID-19 hotspot in Sussex County and continuing positive trends in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide.
Carney also extended the state of emergency, including the stay-at-home order and other modifications through Sunday, May 31, right up until Phase 1 is set to begin.
During his May 8 press briefing, Carney said reopening will occur gradually. “It’s not like we turn on a switch,” he said.
In Phase 1: Gatherings will be limited to 10 people; social distancing remains; schools and youth activities remain closed; workers can start to return in phases; gyms will be allowed to reopen following strict guidelines; elective surgeries will resume; large venues and restaurants will have strict reopening guidelines; and bars will remain closed. Visitors will still not be permitted at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
The governor said additional interim steps to allow businesses to reopen could occur between now and May 31. “We are putting ourselves in a position to gradually reopen some businesses,” he said.
On May 8, hair salons were permitted to reopen with strict restrictions, and some retail businesses were allowed to open with curbside service.
Carney said further details about the specifics of Phase 1 will be announced next week.
“Over the next couple weeks, we will build on the interim steps we took today, allowing certain small businesses to safely operate curbside, or by appointment only. We have heard the voices of small business owners loud and clear, and expect to move forward with a rolling reopening of Delaware's economy. We will not hesitate to allow additional businesses to open before June 1, if we can do so safely,” Carney said.
"Ultimately, our ability to move into Phase I at the beginning of next month will depend on our ability to contain COVID-19 hotspots in Sussex County, especially along the Route 113 corridor.
“Because of the ongoing threat in Sussex County, we are not in a position yet to open Delaware's beaches, or remove restrictions on short-term rentals and out-of-state travelers. We need everyone to really lean into the effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in southern Delaware,” Carney said.
Carney also announced a major increase in testing throughout the state, with emphasis on parts of Sussex County. Plans are to administer 80,000 saliva-based tests a month, which is more than four times the number of current tests.
Carney said he reviews a variety of statistics in making decisions on reopening. Criteria to move to Phase 1 include: 14-day decline in percentage of positive cases; implementing an extensive testing program; hospital capacity; sufficient personal protective equipment; and a comprehensive program for contact tracing.