Carney issues stay-at-home order: Instructs non-essential businesses to close Tuesday

DOVER — All non-essential Delaware businesses must close by Tuesday morning, according to a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. John Carney Sunday evening.

The order, a modification to a prior state of emergency declaration, takes effect at 8 a.m. that day and comes as the official number of coronavirus cases in the state climbs to 56.

It also directs people to stay at home as much as possible, venturing out only for essential trips.

See the list of essential and non-essential business.

Individuals with questions about the status of their business can email or call 577-8477 between 9 and 4.

Essential businesses include those involved in food production, construction, manufacturing and health care, among other sectors. Notably, grocery stores and liquor stores can remain open, but many forms of retail cannot.

Furniture stores and auto dealers must close. Automotive parts and tire stores may stay open.

The mandate comes because not enough people have followed previous instructions to avoid social gatherings and contact with others, which had prompted the governor in the last week to close restaurants (except for takeout and delivery), gyms and some other businesses, as well as the state’s beaches.

“This was not an easy decision, but it’s the right decision to protect the safety of Delawareans and Delaware families,” Gov. Carney said. “If you have any questions about whether you should be staying home or going out, stay home. Go to work, and go straight back home. If you don’t need food or other essential items, stay home.”

As of Sunday evening, there are 56 laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases in Delaware, according to the Division of Public Health. That count includes six people in the hospital, with three critically ill.

DPH said the source of exposure for many of the positive cases is unknown, meaning community spread of the virus is occurring here.
The coronavirus total climbed to 47 on Saturday. The state’s first reported case was March 11.

Of the 56 patients known to have the virus, 39 are from New Castle County, 12 are from Sussex County and five are from Kent County. They range in age from 14 to 80.

DPH is not releasing more information about the patients due to privacy laws, but Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford said Sunday it has admitted its first patient with the virus.

The governor is expected to make an announcement about schools this week. Delaware schools have been closed since March 16 and are scheduled to re-open March 30. However, the list of essential businesses and organizations shared by the governor’s office notes schools are not to remain open.

Delawareans are not forbidden from leaving their homes during the state of emergency, but they should take pains to head out only for necessary activities, such as getting groceries, seeing a doctor or exercising. People are still encouraged to get fresh air and stay active, but they should be sure they are following guidelines for social distancing, such as avoiding groups and staying six feet away from one another.

“We all have a role to play in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker said, acknowledging the disruption the virus has had on daily life.

Under Gov. Carney’s stay-at-home order, businesses that remain open must take health-related precautions, such as protecting high-risk workers and providing hand-washing or -sanitizing stations, and must offer flexible sick leave policies.

State offices will remain open, but state employees should work from home if possible. Government agencies are urged to provide shelter for homeless Delawareans, who are otherwise not subject to the shelter in place order.

Individuals who are unsafe at home, such as victims of domestic violence, should seek safer alternative residences.

“The more seriously we all take this now, the sooner we can get to the other side of this crisis,” Gov. Carney said.

Also Sunday, the Department of Correction said it is prohibiting volunteers who are over age 60 or have underlying health conditions from entering its facilities, while the judiciary closed all state courts until at least April 15. Justice of the Peace Courts 11, 7 and 3 will remain open 24 hours for payment of bail for all courts and emergency criminal and civil filings.

Each courthouse will provide a method, such as a dropbox, for attorneys and the public to file documents if they cannot do so electronically.

“Since the declaration of a judicial emergency on March 14, 2020, the courts have done remarkable work using video and telephone instead of in-person appearances while postponing non-emergency matters,” Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. said in a statement.

“Despite these measures to reduce the traffic in our state courthouses, we have had several possible exposures which have been reported publicly. Given the escalating nature of the public health emergency, we needed to take further measures to protect the safety of the courts and our justice partners while keeping essential judicial functions operating.”

The state on Friday announced a plan to test individuals with COVID-19 symptoms at no cost to patients. Starting today, there will be seven standing health facility sites for people to be tested on a doctor’s order.

ChristianaCare will operate one site in Newark and one in Wilmington, with Saint Francis Healthcare running another site in Wilmington. In Dover, Bayhealth will handle the procedures. Beebe Healthcare will have testing sites in Millsboro and Frankford, while Nanticoke will operate one in Seaford.

Individuals who do not have access to a health care provider can call the state’s special hotline at 1-866-408-1899 or call centers run by Christiana Care, Beebe or Bayhealth.

People who are sick, especially with shortness of breath or a fever and coughing, should stay home and contact their primary care provider instead of first heading to the emergency room or an urgent care center. A person experiencing a medical emergency such as significant trouble breathing should call 911.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, does not have a vaccine yet. Most people recover with rest and hydration, although illness can be severe in a segment of the population. The elderly and people with underlying health conditions are most at risk.

More than 300,000 cases of the virus have been reported globally, with more than 30,000 diagnoses and several hundred deaths in the United States.

Delawareans with general questions about COVID-19 or their exposure risk can call DPH at 1-866-408-1899 (711 for individuals who are hearing impaired) from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday or email

For more information, visit

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.