Delaware’s beaches will reopen May 22

DOVER — Looks like you’ll be able to celebrate Memorial Day at the beach after all. Gov. John Carney announced Thursday the state will allow beaches to reopen starting at 5 p.m. May 22.

The state’s 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors and its ban on short-term housing rentals will continue, effectively prohibiting any non-resident who has not been in the state for at least two weeks from using the beaches.

“Summer at the beach and the pool is a huge part of life for so many Delawareans. As we ease our way into a new normal, we’re trying to find ways for Delawareans to enjoy the outdoors and the company of their families,” Gov. Carney said in a statement.

“I want to be very clear to our friends who want to travel here from outside the state. While we hope one day soon to be able to welcome you to our beaches, that time has not yet come. We need to reopen Delaware in a controlled way that doesn’t put anyone at risk.”

Beachgoers must still follow social distancing, keeping at least 6 feet apart. They also are required to wear masks on the boardwalk and are recommended to do so on the beach.

Individuals at least 65 years old should remain at home because they are at a high risk from COVID-19.

To enforce the out-of-state quarantine, Delaware State Police will station troopers at several routes to stop and question travelers. Violations of the governor’s emergency orders are a criminal offense.

The governor’s office said the decision to reopen was made in consultation with mayors of coastal municipalities and health experts. The beaches have been closed to most visitors for the past two months, although some towns have started allowing people on in limited fashion.

The announcement comes as pressure to reopen mounts from several quarters, including business owners and fans of the beach.

Coastal municipalities like Rehoboth Beach are heavily dependent on summer tourism, which is likely to see a hit even if many of the coronavirus-related restrictions are relaxed.

The governor previously said he did not expect to open the beaches before June.

“I cannot emphasize strongly enough that during this everyone must continue to keep a six foot distance from others, and to wear face coverings when out, even when going to enjoy activities permitted under these limited re-opening conditions,” Division of Public Health Director Karyl Rattay said in a statement.

“It’s incredibly important that everyone exercise common sense and follow the restrictions so we don’t have a re-resurgence in cases of COVID-19 and are forced to tighten them again.”

In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, the governor is requiring municipalities to clean bathrooms, benches and boardwalk railings multiple times a day, close boardwalk arcades and mark 6 feet intervals for social distancing in front of boardwalk establishments, beach entrances or any other area where lines are likely. He is also recommending, though not mandating, they limit access points and parking spaces and designate beach ambassadors to assist law enforcement and inform visitors about social distancing.

Beaches at Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore and Fenwick Island state parks may limit capacity to vehicles to enforce social distancing. Surf fishing restrictions on the number of individuals per car or truck will be lifted May 22, although only individuals from the same household are allowed in a vehicle.

On-premise beach vendors must follow restaurant regulations like wearing face coverings, disinfecting rental items and keeping customers 6 feet apart in line. Dine-in food services remain prohibited.

Community pools can open at the same time but are limited to 20 percent capacity. Swim lessons or team practices are not allowed.

The governor also said Thursday ice cream shops and trucks can open the next day, one week before the beaches. Starting at 5 p.m. Friday, they can serve takeout or curbside pickup.

“With the restrictions being lifted for our beaches, pools and ice cream shops, it is critical that we all continue to act as if we already have coronavirus,” Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker said in a statement.

“We need to remain at least 6 feet away from non-family members, wear a face covering in public, wash our hands often, wipe down commonly used surfaces, and cough and sneeze into our face coverings or elbows. Preventing flare-ups of COVID-19 is our shared responsibility. It is the only way we will protect ourselves and our neighbors.”

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

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