Delaware Gov. John Carney on Tuesday announced the state will remain in Phase 2 and ordered the closure of beach bars this weekend amid a rise in coronavirus cases in the state.
“We’ve seen several clusters related to senior week and we’ve seen a cluster of cases among 17- and 18-year-olds … as well as a number of restaurant and bar employees who have become positive,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, during a Tuesday news conference. “We’ve seen an increase in COVID-19 cases among residents of the beach communities.”
In Dewey and Rehoboth Beach, officials have seen a “significant increase in percent positive cases recently.” Dr. Rattay said the lack of face coverings on the beach is problematic, especially if you’re not six feet apart.
She praised the owners of the Purple Parrot and Dewey’s Starboard for “taking great measures to get staff tested and do the right thing,” noting it’s hard for these establishments to control crowds. Dr. Rattay said the state would step up enforcement actions ahead of the holiday weekend, which can include fines for businesses not enforcing social distancing and wearing of facemasks.
The moves follow a recent coronavirus cluster in Rehoboth Beach, Del., that led to mounting concerns over the expected influx of tourists for Fourth of July celebrations, though Rehoboth has cancelled fireworks.
After 102 people tested positive for the virus in Rehoboth last Thursday out of 1,000 tested, the Delaware Division of Public Health is asking people in Rehoboth and Dewey Beach to get tested.
Among the positive cases in Rehoboth are three lifeguards. While local officials believe the lifeguards did not have any contact with the public, they are taking increased precautions.
“We believe at this time there was very little contact with visitors,” Rehoboth Police Chief Keith Banks said in a Facebook post. “We immediately executed our COVID response protocol and contacted the local health department. All lifeguards were notified of the exposure and will be tested within the next 24 hours.”
The recent cluster brings the total number of confirmed cases in Delaware to 11,376. Sussex County is home to 40 percent of the positive cases despite making up less than a quarter of the state’s population.
The expected Fourth of July crowds at the beaches worry health officials.
“We are also concerned by our own staff observations in the beach area and pictures seen on social media of people not wearing face coverings or social distancing while they are out and about, including at bars and restaurants,” Rattay told the Cape Gazette. “Make no mistake, continuing this behavior is a recipe for disaster.”
Despite expectations that Delaware would move to Phase 3 of its reopening on June 29, Gov. John Carney announced that the state would remain in Phase 2, which began on June 15 and allows most businesses to open at 60 percent capacity.
Rehoboth businesses are adapting to the restrictions. If you’re planning to visit Rehoboth during the July 4th holiday weekend, you’ll find plenty of businesses open, though reservations are recommended. The Purple Parrot’s popular Biergarten is open without reservations. Masks are required and strict social distancing protocols are being enforced.
Blue Moon owner Tim Ragan told the Blade in an email that he is requesting reservations to “make the best use of our limited capacity.” The Moon features its Spotlight shows at 7 and 9 p.m. Friday; and Legends shows at 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, the Moon offers show tune Sunday with Nate Buccieri at 6 p.m. and “Climax with Magnolia” at 9 p.m. Buccieri plays piano at happy hour Monday-Thursday, 5-8 p.m. And Monday brings “the Boy Band Project,” featuring performers from Broadway at 9 p.m.
Aqua and The Pines are open, with the upstairs lounge at the Pines hosting Pamala Stanley’s new summer schedule, which includes shows Thursdays-Sundays. Stanley will play Thursday and Friday, 7-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 6-9 p.m. Saturday night from 8:30-10:30 brings “Tea with Mona Lotts and Kristina Kelly,” a variety show featuring drag, musical guests and comedy. Lotts and Kelly host a drag brunch Sundays at 11:30 a.m. Visit thepinesrb.com for more information. Masks are required for entry and tables are spaced eight feet apart. Book online for all shows at thepinesRB.com/events.
Diego’s Hideaway is also open with expansive outdoor seating, temperature checks at the door and welcoming table service.