The Governor saw enough of crowds on beaches Friday. Saturday he ordered them closed. Delaware News Journal
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Delaware’s governor ordered the state’s beaches closed Saturday in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus after crowds flocked to Sussex County beaches on Friday.
The announcement came around 12:15 p.m. A few hours later, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Delaware had climbed to 45.
Beaches closed at 5 p.m. Saturday and must remain closed until May 15 or until the virus is no longer a public health threat. People won’t be able to go to the beach except to exercise or walk their dogs where dogs are allowed, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
Police will enforce the beach closures and all other provisions of Delaware’s state of emergency, which the governor declared on March 12. Any violation of the state of emergency is a criminal offense, the release said.
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Local officials can choose to have harsher restrictions on top of the beach closures, the release said. That includes choosing whether to shut down boardwalks.
By the time the state announced the beach closures, the city of Rehoboth Beach had already closed its beach and boardwalk. Businesses on the boardwalk can choose to stay open and serve via delivery, said Rehoboth spokeswoman Krys Johnson.
By 1 p.m., Dewey Beach had announced its beaches were also closed. Lewes Mayor Ted Becker said his town closed its beaches around 8:30 a.m. and put up barricades.
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The beach restrictions are in response to the packed beaches on Friday, when beachgoers from in and out of state disregarded health officials’ calls to avoid crowds.
“We saw too many people on the beaches yesterday and we weren’t seeing the kind of social distancing that we need in order to slow the spread of coronavirus,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement with the announcement. “This was a difficult decision, but we need folks to follow the rules to keep all Delawareans safe.”
Carney also advised people to not go out in public unless necessary and to stay home if you feel even mildly sick.
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“If people don’t listen to the guidance, if they don’t listen to what the governor’s saying, he has to impose additional restrictions,” said Carney’s spokesman, Jonathan Starkey.
The governor is still encouraging people to be outside, but you “can’t crowd in large groups” or “have parties on the beach,” Starkey said.
In other parts of the country, including parts of the Florida Panhandle, officials are closing beaches to try to curb the spread of the virus.
California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania have ordered residents to stay home unless absolutely necessary. Before New Jersey followed suit, it had put a curfew on all of its residents. While Carney has yet to place those restrictions on the First State, none of those ideas are off the table, he said Thursday.
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“It needs to be controlled,” said House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, about the beach. “People need to do the social distancing, and they’re not doing it. It just baffles me.”
The governor issued a similar order halting dining in at restaurants after Delawareans continued to crowd bars and restaurants last weekend.
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“This is not a time to be traveling with your families and acting like nothing’s wrong,” said House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, about the crowds. “They’re not exercising good judgment. … Lord knows what they’re bringing with them.”
This is a developing story, check back throughout the day for updates.
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