WILMINGTON — Indoor capacity limits will be lifted in Delaware beginning Friday, May 21, state officials announced on Tuesday.
Indoor facilities will be allowed to use as much capacity as social distancing requirements allow. The social distancing requirement will also be changed from 6 feet to 3 feet as of May 21.
The lifting of restrictions affects restaurants, bars, retail establishment, gyms, houses of worship and other businesses. Masks will still be required indoors.
State officials said Delaware’s declining COVID-19 case numbers, rising vaccination statistics and the warmer weather played into the decision.
“Everything is pointing in the right direction with our numbers, our case rates, our percent-positivity, our hospitalizations, our vaccine numbers,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health. “Thank you to Delawareans who stepped up to protect yourselves, your family, your community and your state.”
Delaware posted its lowest number of hospitalizations since March 28 in Tuesday’s report by the DPH — down to 128, which is a decrease of 28 over the last two days. The state’s most recent seven-day rolling average for percentage of positive tests has dropped to 4.5% as of Saturday at 6 p.m., which is the lowest since March 25. There is a two-day lag for percentage of positive test data to account for the time delay between the date of the test and the date the DPH receives the test result.
Delaware’s seven-day rolling average for new daily cases is down to 226.9 cases per day after 143 in Tuesday’s report, another factor the state used to loosen restrictions.
“It’s based on improving data, fewer positive cases on a seven-day moving average over the last week and the expectation that will continue,” Gov. John Carney said. “And in part of because of the vaccination rates that we reached, thanks go out to all our partners there.”
There have been 769,026 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines administered in Delaware as of Monday at 11:59 p.m.
A total of 342,506 individuals have been vaccinated in Delaware, including 308,674 Delawareans. Nonresidents can be vaccinated in the state if they either work in Delaware or receive their health care in Delaware.
An additional 118,700 persons, 106,347 of them Delawareans, have received their first dose of a two-dose vaccine series and are awaiting their second dose.
Gov. Carney said 53.4% of all eligible Delawareans, aged 16 and older, have received at least one dose. For the state’s most vulnerable population, those 65 years old and older, 87.4% have received at least one dose.
Gov. Carney added the state is hopeful it will not have to reimpose restrictions later in the year during the colder months when COVID-19 spreads more easily. He encouraged Delawareans to keep getting vaccinate to help with this.
“That’s why we continue to push and focus on vaccinations,” Gov. Carney said. “We rely on Delawareans to encourage their family members and friends to get vaccinated so that we can be more open and free.”
“We want to reach 70% or 80% of the population eligible in our state,” he added. “I want to be the number one state, the first state in vaccinations and we have the ability to do that.”
To find vaccine availability in Delaware and register for vaccination events, visit here.
Under the new guidelines coming May 21, customers in bars and restaurants must still stay seated indoors and outdoors.
While masks are required indoors, the DPH said Delawareans should follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations outdoors.
The CDC recently updated its outdoor mask-wearing guidance to say fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear a mask outdoors unless in a large crowd of strangers. It said people do not have to wear masks outdoors when they walk, bike or run alone or with members of their household, whether they are vaccinated or not. They can also go maskless in small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated people, but if around unvaccinated individuals, they should wear a mask.
Events with over 250 people will still require plan approval from DPH to ensure compliance with basic precautions to prevent spread of COVID-19, regardless if the event is indoors or outdoors.
Dr. Rattay said masks will still be required at gyms, although capacity for classes can increase.
“It will allow for more individuals in fitness classes,” Dr. Rattay said. “But as we’ve discussed, gyms are an area whether in Delaware, or nationally or internationally, where there have been super-spreader events and in general a fair amount of spread because people exhale hard and the vesicles can spread even further. So at this point in time, indoor mask-wearing is going to be important for those working out.”
“With less restrictions, there’s more personal responsibility on each of us to do what helps keep ourselves and friends and family members safe,” she added. “Masks will still be required indoors. The science is so supportive that masks make a huge difference and spread is higher indoors so wearing masks indoors is going to be important.”
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