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No businesses shut down yet in zero-tolerance COVID restriction period, but state urges compliance

Courtesy of the Delaware Dept. of Health and Social Service Facebook
The food court at Christiana Mall on Black Friday prompted the state to institute restrictions on food court capacity.

It’s been one week since the state began a “zero-tolerance” enforcement policy for violations of coronavirus restrictions.

Restaurants and most retail stores are limited to 30 percent capacity. Stores over 100,000 square feet are limited to 20 percent, as of Dec. 14.

The state started a “zero-tolerance” enforcement policy on these restrictions last Monday—with an immediate civil fine on the first strike and closure on the second. 

But even in the midst of holiday shopping, Jamie Mack of the Division of Public Health (DPH) says the state has not shut down any businesses. It has fined a few. 

“Everybody should know better at this point, so we’re sort of just reinforcing the idea that we don’t necessarily have to come out and give you a warning, or provide education, or hold  your hand,” Mack said. “If we come out and we continue to see these issues, we can simply just fine you. We already have the authority to do that, we're just being a little more upfront about it.”

Public health officials follow up on complaints and do unannounced inspections. They’ve done about 150 so far this month, down from a high of more than 400 in August. DPH performed about 250 inspections in September and 215 inspections each in October and November. 


The state has issued more than 20 penalties and one cease and desist notice for COVID restriction violations this year.

Mack says inspectors saw “some concerns” at the larger chain stores in the Wilmington and New Castle areas this weekend, and will focus on those and the malls over the next few days. 

Mack says DPH is encouraging businesses to monitor themselves, since inspectors can’t be everywhere at once.

The state will continue to follow up on complaints.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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