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Delaware Gov. John Carney says indoor worship center attendance to be capped at 100 people and possibly more with plan approved by state

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Delaware Gov. John Carney at a news conference Nov. 17.

The newest regulations from Delaware Gov. John Carney formally imposing COVID-19 restrictions updated the cap on large gatherings.

Services in houses of worship are limited to 30 percent of capacity, up to 100 people. Additional capacity may be permitted with a plan approved by the Delaware Division of Public Health, according to a Nov. 20 news release issued by the governor.

Hand sanitizing is required at Church of the Holy Child on Naamans Road in Wilmington at the first Delaware Mass on June 1 held at the Diocese of Wilmington parish. Churches had been closed due to coronavirus since March 15.
Dialog photo/Don Blake

“COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising in Delaware and across the country,” Carney said in the news release. “We’re focused on protecting lives and targeting restrictions where we’re seeing spread of COVID-19. Let’s all do our part. Wear a mask. Avoid gatherings with anyone outside your household. Consider celebrating holidays a little differently this year. Stay vigilant and we’ll get through this.”

These restrictions took effect Nov. 23.

  • Indoor gatherings in homes must be capped at no more than 10 people.
  • Indoor gatherings at businesses or indoor spaces open to the public must be limited to the lesser of 30 percent of the venue’s stated fire capacity, or 50 people.
  • Services in houses of worship are limited to 30 percent of capacity, up to 100 people. Additional capacity may be permitted with a plan approved by the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) by emailing HSPcontact@delaware.gov.
  • Outdoor public gatherings are limited to 50 people. Additional capacity, up to a cap of 250 people, may be permitted with a plan approved by DPH.
  • Restaurants must operate at no more than 30 percent of fire capacity indoors, with allowances for additional outdoor seating. Additionally, parties sitting at the bar must not exceed two people.
  • Delawareans must always wear face coverings in gyms.
  • Carney’s order also prohibits Delaware youth sports organizations, teams and venues from hosting or participating in tournaments with out-of-state teams, effective at 8 a.m. on Dec. 1. The order includes a provision prohibiting Delaware teams from traveling across states lines for tournaments.

The Diocese of Wilmington issued a statement saying it will continue to maintain standards aimed at keeping parishioners safe.

“Provided a parish is equipped to follow guidelines issued by the Diocese of Wilmington in concert with government officials, public Masses, funerals, weddings and baptisms may be held,” according to the statement.

“Attendance at any liturgy or event in the church will follow the guidelines set for each state: 30 percent for Delaware with a cap of 100 people; 50 percent for Maryland.”

Carney on Nov. 17 cited increases in hospitalizations and other indicators related to COVID-19 and issued new statewide restrictions that would limit indoor gatherings to no more than 50 people. The Nov. 20 order updates that number for indoor houses of worship.

Bishop Malooly celebrates the Diocese of Wilmington “Red Mass” at St. Mary Magdalen Church on Oct. 11. Dialog photo/Don Blake

In March, Bishop Malooly announced no public Masses would be held in the diocese and dispensed of the Sunday obligation to attend Mass in the effort to limit the spread of the disease. Regulations limiting large gatherings were adopted in both Delaware and Maryland and the dispensation was intended to conform to those guidelines.

Public Masses began again in Delaware with daily Mass June 1 and weekend Masses June 6-7 as the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington reopened churches in accordance with ease of restrictions aimed at limiting spread of coronavirus in the state.

The diocese encompasses two states and officials May 25 announced that Masses would resume in Maryland with social-distancing guidelines in place.

The bishop’s dispensation remains in effect.