Sen. Ernie Lopez's letter asking Gov. John Carney to move Delaware into the first phase of reopening came and went May 22, but a conversation between them the next day has left Lopez hopeful.
“What we've asked for is a more aggressive push to Phase 1,” Lopez said about the governor's limited reopening plan expected to begin June 1. Lopez sent his own letter to Gov. Carney two days after 15 Republican legislators sent a similar letter asking the governor to ease restrictions on businesses and end the ban on short-term rentals, hotels and motels.
“I was already three quarters through my letter when those guys decided to do theirs, so I said I'm going to keep plugging away with mine,” Lopez said. “The governor and I had a very candid and frank conversation last Saturday afternoon, and we agree to disagree on some things.”
The 10-week economic shutdown has put people's health first, which was important, Lopez said, but none of the hospitals in Sussex County or elsewhere in the state were overwhelmed with patients as the pandemic spread across Delaware. Now that the latest state data shows hospitalizations and new number of positive COVID-19 cases are on the decline, he said, it's time to lift restrictions on businesses.
“It's going to be two back-to-back summer weekends that our local businesses can count on that will be taken from them in addition to the 10 weeks we've already had,” Lopez said.
A total of 100,000 Delawareans - about 1 in 10 Delaware residents - are expected to file for unemployment for more than $50 million in taxpayer dollars. “Governor, our state’s economy is hemorrhaging; the healing must start today,” he wrote in his letter.
Lopez outlined five measures to open Delaware’s economy and services, including lifting the appointment-only restriction on businesses and moving the state into the first phase of reopening before June 1.
Lopez asked Carney to lift the out-of-state travel ban on hotels and short-term rentals May 29; continue long-term care oversight while allowing families to meet with loved ones in a safe manner; provide detailed accounting of educational efforts; and continue collaboration with hospitals and the medical community to maintain low COVID-19 census rates and ensure proper person protection equipment.
Following his conversation with Gov. Carney, Lopez said he is hopeful that there will be some action this week on short-term rentals and restrictions on out-of-state visitors.
“I think even he is acknowledging that it hasn't worked and has had a negative impact on people it was meant to protect,” Lopez said.
On May 25 during a press conference in Lewes, Carney said he expects to make an announcement about short-term rentals on May 26, but he also indicated he is working toward a gradual increase in visitors that he said could take place in June. He said his visit to Rehoboth Beach gave him confidence that both businesses and visitors are using social distancing and wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“I was very impressed with what I saw today,” he said. “I feel much more comfortable moving forward.”