Lawmaker takes issue with state of emergency renewal

DOVER — Gov. John Carney on Wednesday announced a fifth extension of the state of emergency that has been in place since March due to COVID.

The state of emergency was first issued on March 12, the day after Delaware’s fist coronavirus case. Delaware shut down and, for a time, was rolling back many restrictions over the pandemic. Gov. Carney moved the state to the second phase of its three-part plan on June 15, but 10 days later announced the next step would be delayed indefinitely.

Worsening conditions elsewhere and continued concern about the effects of a full-scale reopening have led to a halt on the process. The country has seen more than 1,000 deaths a day in recent days, although the surge has been concentrated in the South, West and Midwest.

By law, the state of emergency must be renewed every 30 days.

“The precautions you’re taking are working. We are beating COVID-19, but we can’t let up. This virus is still out there, and it can cause serious illness,” Gov. Carney said in a statement. We know from public health experts that following basic health precautions is the best way to prevent community spread.

“Wearing a face mask in public settings is still required by this State of Emergency declaration. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently. Keep your distance from others outside your household. Know your COVID-19 status by getting a test. Visit de.gov/gettested to find a testing site near you. Thank you to all Delawareans and visitors who are following these precautions.”

A state of emergency gives the executive branch more power to respond to crises, such as placing capacity limits on business establishments. That fact has created an issue for some lawmakers, as well as other Delawareans who believe the pandemic’s risks are largely overblown.

State Rep. Rich Collins, a Millsboro Republican, issued a statement through the House Republican caucus in response to the renewal Wednesday.

Richard Collins

“According to preliminary data from the Delaware Office of Vital Statistics, the death rate has fallen to normal and is less than what we experienced at this time in 2018,” Rep. Collins said. “It is shocking that after Delaware’s death rate falls to normal levels that we are only in Phase II of our recovery plan with Phase III nowhere in sight. What are they waiting for, Election Day?”

Rep. Collins noted positive trends in several statistics kept by the state, with hospitalizations down to one-seventh of the high of 337 back in April, a rolling average of people testing positive consistently below 5% and just 22 COVID-related deaths in the past month compared to 565 in the previous four.

The governor has cited hospitalizations and percentage of positive tests as among his key indicators.

Rep. Collins introduced legislation earlier this year to provide a check on the authority granted to the governor during a state of emergency. House Bill 330 would have required the General Assembly’s approval for any renewal, although the measure did contain a provision allowing the governor to still renew a state of emergency “If the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate agree that it is not reasonably possible for the General Assembly to conduct a meeting and the Governor determines that it is necessary for his declared state of emergency to be renewed.”

The bill died in the House Administration Committee, which, like the full General Assembly, has a Democratic majority. As with many other legislative proposals, it never received a hearing.


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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