Delaware governor orders further restrictions on gatherings

March 16, 2020 GMT

SMYRNA, Del. (AP) — Gov. John Carney directed on Monday that restaurants and bars in Delaware restrict their operations to take-out, drive-thru and delivery services in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The directive is included in a modification of an emergency declaration that Carney issued last week. The revised declaration also gives Delaware’s Secretary of Labor authorization to develop emergency rules to ensure that unemployment benefits are available for Delawareans whose jobs are affected by the outbreak. It also directs organizers and sponsors of public gatherings of 50 or more people to cancel those gatherings immediately and halts gaming operations at Delaware’s three casinos.

“It’s going to be a challenging thing for all of us,” Carney said.

Also Monday, state public health officials confirmed the eighth case of coronavirus in Delaware. The confirmation came a day after U.S. Sen. Tom Carper’s office announced that a member of his Delaware-based staff had tested positive for COVID-19.

State public health officials said the latest case involves a New Castle County woman over the age of 50 who is self-isolated at home after being exposed to a positive case in another state. Carper’s staff in both Delaware and Washington, D.C., began working remotely starting on Monday.

Meanwhile, Carney got a firsthand look at how Delaware is monitoring and responding to the spread of the coronavirus during a tour Monday of the State Health Operations Center in Smyrna, where he spoke with health experts, laboratory personnel and operational staff.

“I was just really impressed as I walked around here with the diligence and focus of our team, the number of people and resource that are here,” he said.

State laboratory director Dr. Sergio Huerta told Carney that Delaware officials were “ahead of the game” in monitoring and responding to the virus.

“In terms of our planning perspective and our collaboration with our health care partners, with the hospitals, long-term care facilities, other important partners, ... we feel pretty confident we’re where we need to be,” explained state medical director Dr. Rick Hong.

Carney said he is interested in seeing the results of a drive-thru testing event that was held Friday at the Wilmington riverfront by Christiana Care, the state’s largest hospital system.

“That was about five or six hundred tests,” he noted. “We already know that one has come back positive, although not many have come back at this point.

Director of Public Health director Dr. Karyl Rattay said officials were treating the Christiana Care test as “pending” until it is confirmed.

“Were questioning whether that might possibly be a false positive,” she said, adding that the individual is isolated.