Gov. John Carney announced Thursday that restrictions on beaches and community pools will be lifted 5 p.m. May 22, allowing them to open for Memorial Day weekend.
Ice cream shops and trucks will also reopen with restrictions the same time this Friday.
“Summer at the beach and the pool is a huge part of life for so many Delawareans,” Carney said in a statement. “As we ease our way into a new normal, we’re trying to find ways for Delawareans to enjoy the outdoors and the company of their families.”
Strict six-foot social distancing requirements will remain in place. Face coverings will be required on boardwalks and encouraged on beaches. The state recommends individuals with underlying health conditions or those who are over the age of 65 continue to shelter in place.
“I cannot emphasize strongly enough that during this everyone must continue to keep a six foot distance from others, and to wear face coverings when out, even when going to enjoy activities permitted under these limited re-opening conditions,” said Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay in a statement. “It's incredibly important that everyone exercise common sense and follow the restrictions so we don't have a re-resurgence in cases of COVID-19 and are forced to tighten them again.”
Community pools opening May 22 will be limited to 20 percent of regular capacity, and swim lessons or swim team practices are prohibited. Public pools regulated by the Division of Public Health and community pools that operate as private pools must disinfect “high-touch” surfaces every 15 minutes to two hours. Swimmers must maintain six feet of distance from those not within their immediate family or party both in and out of the pool. (DPH pool guidance can be found here.)
State officials emphasize that the mandatory 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travelers as well as the ban on short-term rentals remain in effect. Restaurants and bars remain limited to take-out and delivery services.
“I want to be very clear to our friends who want to travel here from outside the state,” said Carney. “While we hope one day soon to be able to welcome you to our beaches, that time has not yet come. We need to reopen Delaware in a controlled way that doesn’t put anyone at risk.”
Delaware State Police plan to enforce the out-of-state quarantine with troopers stationed at routes typically used by out-of-state travelers. Travelers will be stopped, asked a series of questions, and educated about the 14-day quarantine requirement. Violations of Carney’s emergency declaration are a criminal offense.
Officials say Carney’s decision was made in consultation with state public health experts and with beach town mayors. The state is encouraging local officials to limit capacity on the beaches to prevent overcrowding.
Leaders of the City of Rehoboth announced earlier this week they would open their beach and boardwalk, which have been completely closed for nearly two months, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily starting Friday. People will be asked to wear a face covering, maintain social distancing and keep gatherings to 10 people or less.
Carney said Tuesday he agreed with Rehoboth’s approach, and characterized it as moving “towards the existing limitations."
“They had gone further than that and completely closed their beaches and boardwalk, and we had allowed beaches to be open for walking, family walking, walking with your spouse, exercising on the beach in an individual kind of way,” Carney said at the time.
Bethany Beach also announced this week that it will re-open its beach and boardwalk, for exercise and walking only, on Friday.
The State of Delaware is offering the following guidance to beach towns and beach goers:
- Clean bathrooms, boardwalk railings, benches multiple times per day
- Close arcade games on boardwalk
- Demarcate (using tape, cones, etc.) 6 feet intervals in front of certain retail on boardwalks where lines are likely to form, entrances to the beach, or any other area where congregating or waiting in lines is likely to occur
- Identify enforcement teams
Towns are recommended to:
- Implement systems to limit capacity (like timed or day passes) on the beach
- Limit parking spaces
- Limit access points
- Designate Beach Ambassadors to educate beachgoers about social distancing and serve as liaisons to law enforcement
- Station Beach Ambassadors at access points
Regulations for beachgoers:
- Face coverings are required on boardwalk and encouraged on the beach
- Members of different households must remain 6 feet apart at all times
- Individuals with underlying health conditions or who are over 65-years-old should continue to shelter in place.
- Avoid water fountains.
Regulations for on-premise beach vendors:
- Food and beverage concession vendors must follow restaurant regulations and may only provide take-out or delivery service. Vendors must wear face coverings. Customers must be 6 feet apart while waiting in line.
- The rental of items like umbrellas, chairs, mats, kayaks, etc. are allowed so long as the vendor properly disinfects between each use/rental.
This story has been updated.