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State lawmakers weigh in on Gov. Carney's new restrictions

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

Gov. John Carney announced new restrictions on stores and restaurants Thursday in response to rising Coronavirus cases.

Many restaurants and small businesses are struggling to stay open during the pandemic. And new restrictions cutting capacity for many back to 30 percent could force some to close their doors permanently.

While State Sen. Ernie Lopez (R-Lewes) and House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) differ on the governor’s handling of restrictions, they agree restaurants shoulder undue blame for spreading the virus.

“And sometimes I think they get picked on a little more than the rest of the business world," said Schwartyzkopf."The restaurants probably have been the most responsive to the restrictions as well as the precautions taken—and I think what you need to look at is before you say ‘well we just gotta cut you back to 30 percent or 20 percent or 15 percent,’ is what is the history of your employees; are your employees getting sick, if they’re not getting sick then they’re doing something right.”

Schwarzkopf adds it was unfair at the start of the pandemic to close small stores completely, while allowing big retailers like Walmart to remain completely open.

He notes basing retail store restrictions on size this time ensures more fairness.

Businesses above 100,000 square feet are limited to 20 percent capacity this time while those below 5,000 square feet are limited to 40 percent.

Lopez says Gov. Carney’s recent stay at home advisory was the right way to go, instead of a stay at home order.

“The advisory I felt was a more reasonable approach to take and one that I’m thankful for because a mandate would have been way over burdensome at the end of the day," said Lopez. "The advisory leaves it up to the individual to decide whether they feel as if they should go out as it always should.”

Lopez adds he wants to see a different approach to restricting businesses, arguing restaurants have already been hurt enough and largely have been the best at following protocols, and investing in safety measures.

He says restaurants spent a lot of money building those measures to handle 60 percent capacity, and the latest move to cap capacity at 30 percent hurts their ability to stay open.

The General Assembly is also responding to the spike in cases. House Speaker Pete Schwarzkopf says they’ll continue to conduct business remotely when they reconvene next month and stay virtual through at least the end of January.

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