Following an executive order requiring out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for two weeks, the Rehoboth Beach community is doing its part.
Rehoboth Beach City Manager Sharon Lynn issued a statement March 29, shortly after the governor’s declaration. She said the city will be following the order for those traveling into Rehoboth.
Law enforcement may conduct traffic stops, limited in scope to public health and quarantine questions, on vehicles registered in other states, said Lynn.
“Please, know that this pandemic is very serious and has not yet peaked in our area,” said Lynn. “Please, continue to shelter-in-place, and please heed the warnings to keep you and your loved ones safe.”
Milton Mayor Ted Kanakos said most of Milton's second homeowners are from Washington, D.C., but the town doesn't have as many out-of-towners coming in as the coastal towns. By and large, he said, second homeowners have stayed at their primary homes.
Kanakos said the town has used the town website and robocalls to make people aware of COVID-19 and remind them to keep their distance.
In Lewes, Mayor Ted Becker said the city had not yet taken a position. City council will meet at 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 1, to further discuss the governor’s order. The meeting will be conducted via Zoom, and is open to the public
At a March 30 meeting, Lewes Police Chief Tom Spell said enforcement could be a challenge for his officers. With his department’s manpower, he described the task as daunting.
“We can certainly respond and act on complaints or tips, but whether stopping vehicles with out-of-state plates alone is doable is questionable,” he said. “We’re only a few hours into it and we haven’t really taken any action yet, but I think it’s problematic.”
Lewes City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said the way the governor’s order is worded is a little ambiguous because judges throughout the country have ruled that a person can be a resident of two places. He recommended the city adopt its own measure to exclude anyone who’s primary residence is in another state. Council will consider Mandalas’ draft at its April 1 meeting.
Spell said he spoke with the Delaware River and Bay Authority police March 30 to discuss how it was handling incoming traffic from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. He said traffic is restrict to vehicles only and passengers are asked to remain in their vehicles throughout the journey across the Delaware Bay. Reservations must be made in advance. They’re also making announcements over the PA system to inform passengers of the new 14-day quarantine measure, and DRBA has limited its service to two boats per day.
In addition, Spell said, the Department of Transportation will be putting variable message signs on Savannah Road at the entrance of town, Kings Highway near Big Oyster Brewery and Freeman Highway at Cape Henlopen Drive. The signs will inform visitors of the 14-day quarantine requirement.
Dewey Beach Town Manager Scott Koenig did not respond to a request for comment.
The force of law
Sunday’s order has the force and effect of law, giving state and local police permission to stop vehicles with out-of-state tags and question drivers about their travel.
“These types of stops are intended to serve the public welfare and are not part of ordinary criminal or traffic investigations,” the Department of Justice guideline reads.
Police are also empowered to investigate reports of out-of-state visitors who have failed to self-quarantine.
“We recommend that the initial response in any of the above situations is to advise the person or business of the governor’s declarations and the penalties for noncompliance followed by a calm demand to comply,” the guideline reads. “If noncompliance continues, law enforcement may seek a cease-and-desist order from Delaware Emergency Management Agency/Division of Public Health to serve upon that individual or business.”
Anyone who violates the self-quarantine order could face a misdemeanor charge of failing to obey an emergency order, or misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
With the order going into effect March 30, information was not yet available on how many citations had been issued, but the governor's order will be followed, said Master Cpl. Melissa Jaffe of the Delaware State Police.
“The Delaware State Police will continue to carry out their duties as they always have, by enforcing the laws of the State of Delaware in an appropriate, compassionate, professional and just manner,” she said.
In Rehoboth Beach, Lt. Jaime Riddle did not give details on how police would enforce the order, just that they will.
“It is our sworn duty to advise everyone that the current State of Emergency is enforceable by penalty of criminal arrest,” he said. “If necessary, in situations of noncompliance, officers will utilize all means and resources at their disposal, to include conducting traffic stops, to ensure compliance. The specific details of what these traffic stops might entail are not what we should be focusing on in light of the statewide concern over this pandemic. What citizens and visitors must focus on is doing their part to bring this pandemic to a swift end by following all the mandates of the current State of Emergency, not just those that are most convenient.”
On March 29, Gov. John Carney signed the seventh modification to his State of Emergency declaration, ordering all out-of-state travelers into Delaware to immediately self-quarantine for 14 days to fight the spread of COVID-19.
“Now’s not the time to visit Delaware. We’re facing a serious situation here that is getting worse,” said Carney. “Delawareans need to stay at home, and anyone from another state visiting Delaware should immediately self-quarantine for two weeks. Everyone needs to take this threat seriously. Our goal is to limit a surge in COVID-19 cases that would overwhelm our hospital system. We’ll get through this - but everyone needs to pitch in.”
Under the order, anyone who enters Delaware from another state must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days. The 14-day period is measured from the time of entry into Delaware or for the duration of the individual’s presence in Delaware, whichever is shorter.
Carney’s order also applies to anyone who has entered Delaware in the last 14 days.
The order does not apply to travelers who are merely passing through Delaware. Anyone who lives out-of-state and commutes to Delaware for essential work is strongly encouraged to work from home. Sunday’s order does not apply to those traveling to care for members of their family. Individuals under self-quarantine can leave their homes to seek medical care.
Self-quarantine requires that an individual stay in a quarantine location (home, hotel room or rented lodging); does not go to work, school or public areas; does not use public transportation; separates from other individuals in a residence as much as possible; and avoids sharing personal items. Everyone should continue to follow basic hygiene guidance from the Delaware Division of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Carney said in his order.
This self-quarantine requirement shall not apply to public health, public safety, or healthcare workers, or any other individual assisting an essential business or providing an emergency service related to COVID-19.
As of March 30 the total positive COVID-19 cases in Delaware had reached 264. Of the Delawareans diagnosed with COVID-19, 156 are from New Castle County, 27 are from Kent County, and 81 are from Sussex County. The total number of positive cases represents a cumulative total of cases, including individuals who are currently ill, and those who are considered recovered. Nine Delaware residents have recovered from COVID-19. Patients are considered fully recovered seven days after the resolution of their symptoms (three days after symptoms resolve, they are no longer required to self-isolate at home; however, they must continue to practice strict social distancing for the remaining four days).
Six Delawareans have passed away due to complications from COVID-19. The most recent death involves a 79-year-old female from New Castle County who was not hospitalized. The individual had underlying health conditions. The source of exposure is related to travel to a state with positive COVID-19 cases.
Of the 232 cases, 114 are male and 118 are female. The individuals range in age from 1 to 90. Forty-five individuals are currently hospitalized, nine are critically ill. The source of exposure for many of these positive cases is unknown, which indicates community spread of the virus is occurring in the state. In an effort to provide more demographic information to the public, additional information has been incorporated into Delaware’s data dashboard located at de.gov/coronavirus. DPH cannot confirm specific information about any individual case even if other persons or entities disclose it independently.
Delawareans with general questions about COVID-19 or their exposure risk can call the Division of Public Health’s Coronavirus Call Center at 1-866-408-1899, or 711 for individuals who are hearing-impaired, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Questions can also be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov.
Reporter Nick Roth contributed to this report.