July 4, 2020 at 9:50 am EDT | by Lee Ann Wilkinson
Safety first this July 4th
New signs remind beachgoers of the changes in store this holiday weekend. (Photo by John Bator)

Independence Day calls for more unity than ever this year. All of us at the Delaware beaches — from real estate to retail and especially restaurants and hospitality — are trying to navigate summer in the wake of COVID-19. The real estate market has been extremely busy, and months of quarantine have made a beach vacation even more attractive (and needed) than usual. Yet after months of ‘flattening the curve’ in Delaware, we are now churning in the eddy of the virus and seeing an ebb and flow of positive cases. We are redoubling our efforts to keep the beaches and local businesses open, and get to a sense of calmer waters, but July 4 weekend will look a bit different this year.

Memorial Day weekend brought gradual openings of beaches, restaurants, and bars in Delaware at limited capacity (first 30 percent and then up to 60 percent of approved patron capacity) while enforcing social distancing, expanding outdoor seating, and requiring masks.

Many establishments opted to stay closed or continue take-out only to try to keep employees and customers as safe as possible. As it turned out, June was a bit of a setback. For some, it proved difficult to enforce a strict adherence to safety protocols. Especially at bars, people were often less than compliant, and the culture of beach life and graduation parties added to a spike in cases among this industry demographic — lots of young, college-aged workers. Fortunately, at least at the moment, an uptick in positive cases among mostly young restaurant staff and lifeguards has not translated to an increase in hospitalizations, and many of the people testing positive are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. We hope this trend continues, but time will tell.

In quick response, restaurants throughout Delaware beach towns including Rehoboth and Dewey Beaches, are heightening vigilance for everyone’s safety. We ask for your understanding and patience as we strike a balance of being open and being safe.

Our local healthcare system, Beebe Healthcare, and the State of Delaware Division of Public Health were quick to respond with testing sites for local restaurant industry workers. Delaware has actually had an easily accessible statewide testing program since early June. Beebe’s new CEO, David Tam, has been interviewed on national news networks to explain the approach he is leading locally and in partnership with the state, like testing, contact tracing, and follow up.

What to Expect: So, if you are planning a visit to Delaware beaches for the July 4 weekend, here are a few key points to keep in mind. Some are common sense/what you’re used to, and some are new this week to our beach towns:

• Wear a mask, everywhere. Yes, masks are required everywhere (except while actually in the water) – streets, sidewalks, businesses, and on the beach. Of course, continue to maintain social distancing, too.

• Get there early: State parks are operating at 60 percent capacity – these include Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore, and Fenwick Island. When the 60% capacity is reached, all vehicles will be turned away until vehicle volume within the parks is reduced.

• Call ahead: Most restaurants are operating at 60 percent capacity for table service. Call ahead or check out online ordering to see if they offer take out, too. Bars and taprooms, however, are closed for the foreseeable future, until the governor lifts the restriction, while we curb further spread of the virus. You can still get a cocktail at a restaurant; but no one is able to stand/sit at the bar.

• Spark joy: Fireworks displays have been officially canceled or postponed this year, so make your weekend sparkle with a quieter July 4 celebration!

• Practice patience: Most of all, since this is the peak time of year for so many of our restaurants and businesses, please know that they are going above and beyond to ensure your safety and the safety of employees with intensive and frequent cleaning and accommodations to make your beach vacation as special and safe as possible – and to stay open for their livelihoods and local economy.

As for real estate, we are seeing the market explode with interest from more crowded metropolitan areas — and interest rates are at record lows. If you are looking for a place at the beach to call your own, reach out to your local Realtor and explore.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Independence Day!

Lee Ann Wilkinson is a Realtor and CEO of the Lee Ann Wilkinson Group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gallo Realty, the top-selling real estate team in Delaware and #3 nationally for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. For more information about real estate in Coastal Delaware, visit LeeAnnGroup.com, email LeeAnn@LeeAnnGroup.com, or call 302-645-6664.

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