Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, is asking people with second homes at the Delaware beaches to stay at home.
Please stay at primary residences and shelter in place, said Schwartzkopf in an interview March 20.
“It’s impossible to make people stay away, but we’re asking them to do their part,” said Schwartzkopf. “Please, use a common-sense approach. This is not the time to pack up the car and drive three or four hours to the beach for a vacation.”
Schwartzkopf’s comments come on the heels of beach town officials from neighboring states making the same plea in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier last week, Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton said he wanted visitors to stay away for at least two weeks. Yesterday, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said the same thing.
“To further protect our residents, visitors and town employees, we request that visitors postpone trips to Ocean City beginning immediately,” said Meehan in a prepared statement.
Schwartzkopf said the problem is that visitors could overtax supplies. There’s a limited number of beds around here, he said.
“People with a second home need to stay in the first home,” said Schwartzkopf.
Schwartzkopf said he’s been receiving phone calls from locals who are not happy with all the out-of-state license plates.
“The last phone call I got was pretty vocal about not wanting out-of-staters here right now,” he said.
Local mayors follow suit
Schwartzkopf isn’t the only local official urging people with second homes in the Cape Region to use common sense and stay away.
Dewey Beach Mayor TJ Redefer said, speaking as a person with a compromised immune system, he thinks it is important to understand that an outbreak here would overwhelm the area’s limited medical resources.
“Here in Dewey Beach we can't thank our governor and his team enough for the efforts they have taken to date,” said Redefer in a March 20 email. “Now we need nonproperty owners to stay home, and so we look to the governor for his leadership once more.”
Henlopen Acres Mayor Joni Reich said the key for all, regardless of where, is to curtail normal activities and isolate themselves from others as much as possible.
“No one is promoting tourism at this time,” she said in a March 20 email.
In an email March 19, Lewes Mayor Ted Becker said anyone thinking of coming here should be asymptomatic and also be willing to comply with the guidance associated with the state of emergency.
“People should make a personal decision based on where they have established medical relationships to ensure that they have the most immediate access to medical care should it become necessary,” said Becker.
Becker expanded on his comments in an email March 21. The availability of medical resources in this area is of critical concern, said Becker. While every effort is being made to ramp up medical services, he said, public compliance to the governor’s guidance is paramount over burdening these resources.
“We urge everyone to stay in their homes as much as possible,” said Becker.
Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns said he does not think it’s appropriate for these crowds to flock to the beaches in these distressing times.
“They are coming to the beaches because they think that it is safer here,” said Kuhns in an email March 20. “Unfortunately, they are not taking into consideration the demographics of the beach communities. We are older and more susceptible to infections, while our local medical facilities have limited resources.”
Unfortunately, Kuhns said, this is tough to control.
“Gathering crowds can be very inconsiderate to everyone around them,” he said. “We ask that part-time residents consider staying in place in their full-time homes. Hopefully, the governor will continue to listen to the communities throughout the state and implement various, well-thought-out restrictions in order to protect the Delaware communities.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include comments from the mayors of Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Lewes and Henlopen Acres.