General Assembly won’t meet next week because of coronavirus

DOVER — The General Assembly will not meet next week. Lawmakers announced today the legislature is postponing the end of its break by at least a week due to the coronavirus, which had its first positive test in Delaware this week.

“After careful consideration and consultation with various state agencies, we believe delaying our return is the right decision to ensure the safety of our staff, fellow lawmakers and members of the public who visit Legislative Hall when we are in session,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, and Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-New Castle, said in a statement.

“At this moment, our postponement will extend until March 24. However, we will carefully monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Delaware and across the country, and we will re-evaluate when to return to session on a weekly basis. As we have said before, this is a rapidly shifting situation and we must remain flexible based on the changing circumstances.”

The full legislature has not met since late January. Lawmakers begin session in January and then have a break of about six weeks, during which time the Joint Finance Committee and Joint Committee on Capital Improvement meet for the first round of budget hearings.

The next scheduled gap between meeting dates is in mid-April.

Session runs through the end of June.

Also, lawmakers announced today, Legislative Hall will be closed to the public starting Friday. There will be no tours, and any meetings scheduled for the upcoming week will be postponed.

Many other happenings in the state have been impacted, with the University of Delaware and Delaware State University shifting to online classes for the rest of the semester and various sporting events being canceled or scheduled to be played without fans.

According to the legislature, around 600 people visit the state capitol on a typical session day. Due to the virus, health officials have recommended people limit contact with others, in particular if they are elderly or have underlying health conditions.

Approximately one-third of the General Assembly’s 62 members are at least 60, and about one-fifth are 70 or older.

Canceling session days is not unprecedented, with snow often causing a day or two to be scratched from the schedule every year.

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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