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Delaware, Maryland update restrictions, limit large gatherings in effort to curb spread of coronavirus

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

Gov. John Carney, citing increases in hospitalizations and other indicators related to COVID-19, issued new statewide restrictions Nov. 17 that would limit indoor gatherings to no more than 50 people.

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan changed restrictions, including those on religious facilities, retail establishments and malls, cutting their maximum capacity from 75 percent occupancy to 50 percent.

The Diocese of Wilmington is working to determine how any changes will affect parishes.

“We are in the process of reviewing the impact of Gov. Carney’s updated restrictions on our parishioners,” said diocesan spokesman Bob Krebs.

Masses this weekend are not impacted by the changes in Delaware. The restrictions that take effect 8 a.m. Nov. 23 in Delaware include the following:

  • Indoor gatherings in homes must be capped at no more than 10 people.
  • Indoor gatherings outside of homes must be limited to 30 percent of the venue’s stated fire capacity, up to a cap of 50 people. This includes all events, such as weddings, funerals, services in houses of worship, performances, political gatherings, and events in public spaces including fire halls.
  • Outdoor public gatherings are limited to 50 people. Up to 250 may be allowed with a plan approved by the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH).
  • Restaurants must operate at no more than 30 percent of fire capacity indoors, with allowances for additional outdoor seating.
  • Carney’s order will also prohibit Delaware youth sports organizations, teams and venues from hosting or participating in tournaments with out-of-state teams, effective at 8 a.m. Dec. 1. The order includes a provision prohibiting Delaware teams from traveling across states lines for tournaments.

“You have to limit exposure to those that are shedding the virus,” Carney said at an afternoon news conference Nov. 17. “The conditions on the ground are getting worse and we have to take action.”

Dr. Karyl Ratay, Delaware director of Division of Public Health at Nov. 17 news conference.

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.

In late May, Carney said indoor gatherings must be limited to 30 percent of stated fire code occupancy, and strict social distancing must be maintained. People at high risk, including those over 65-years-old, and anyone who is sick should not attend in-person services, he said.

Carney on Nov. 17 was asked if he expected a challenge from religious leaders on the most recent restrictions.

“Our (earlier) agreement was to not treat religious facilities different,” he said. “This does not.”

Carney also announced an expansion of the DE Relief Grants program for businesses hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions.

The expansion will provide up to $25 million in additional relief for hundreds of businesses that have been disproportionately impacted, he said. Qualifying businesses, including restaurants and taprooms, will receive double their original grant allocation.

Dr. Karyl Ratay, Delaware’s director of the Division of Public Health, said schools are not currently impacted by new restrictions because there has been minimal spread in school settings.

“Schools are safe because they are doing a great job,” she said.

“Please, please wear a mask when you are around anybody who is not a normal part of your household.”