Gov. John Carney is facing increasing criticism from some Republican state lawmakers over his response to the coronavirus.
Fifteen Republican state lawmakers are calling on Carney to start Phase 1 of reopening this Friday, when beaches and pools are scheduled to reopen with restrictions. They are also requesting he remove restrictions on short-term rentals and visitors from other states and allow daycares and camps to operate normally.
Carney said Tuesday he is “very disappointed” by the lawmakers’ letter to him.
“Because it just sounded political to me,” he said. “This is not the time for politics. This is the time when Delawareans pull together, Democrats, Republicans and Independents ... And for a letter like that with the obvious political language and the divisive tone to it and just the inaccuracies, it’s just very disappointing and disturbing.”
Carney has announced additional interim steps businesses can take to offer limited service starting Wednesday.
Carney’s target for the beginning of Phase 1 remains June 1.
In their letter, the fifteen lawmakers say they have fought to influence the Governor’s decisions, but their concerns have not been heeded.
“It is time to say, ‘Enough is enough’,” the letter reads.
The lawmakers argue with hospitalizations declining, Delaware has met the goal of flattening the curve to give the medical system time to prepare for the “long haul.” They say small businesses know how to operate safely. And they characterize Carney’s planned Phase 1 of reopening as “too little, and too late.”
“We have decisions over the future of thousands of Delaware small businesses being made by a group of people who have little to no experience running a business, and to no one’s surprise, the results have been disastrous,” the lawmakers write. “The state needs to adopt a new decision framework – one that prioritizes opening those businesses that can be opened.”
Carney argued during his biweekly press briefing Tuesday that small businesses have had a voice in the state’s response to the virus. He praised the state Division of Small Business for working with retailers and other business sectors.
“Folks who say, ‘Are we going to have participation of business owners in our state’– we do,” he said. “We have on a regular basis and we have for weeks. So for those of you who are asking that question, the answer has been the same for several weeks, and you need to advise your constituents that that in fact is happening and will continue to happen.”
Three of the Republican state lawmakers have also written to U.S. Attorney General William Barr about what they see as unconstitutional overreach by Carney in his emergency order.
Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, Sen. David Wilson and Rep. Ruth Briggs King also criticize the state’s contact tracing program as “in violation of the privacy guarantees of the Constitution and the federal HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] statute.”
“The Governor of Delaware has usurped the authority of the citizens of the State of Delaware and the legislative and judicial branches of government,” their letter reads.
A property owner in Dewey Beach has also filed a federal lawsuit against Carney challenging his ban on short-term rentals and other parts of his emergency order.
Carney said Tuesday he has seen the ban as a tool for keeping out-of-state visitors from flocking to Delaware beaches. He says officials will continue to “look at” the tool’s utility long-term.