As vaccinations rise and cases decline, restaurants wonder why limits remain
reelaware has eased some of its restrictions on outdoor dining as the state sees positive COVID-19 cases start to decline, but restaurant chefs say the state needs a plan to move them soon catering establishments towards greater domestic capacity to save their businesses.
Governor John Carney amended his executive order on April 27 to increase the capacity for outdoor dining to 10 people, but indoor dining capacity limits remained unchanged. The revision also removes some requirements for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, reflecting advances in the scientific community on how the virus is spread.
Carney also suspended the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association’s hiding regulations for low-risk sports, but made those in attendance and on the sidelines always mask themselves. Delaware still requires people to wear masks when in public.
The governor highlighted the drop in COVID-19 cases and the growing number of Delawarians vaccinated as part of the slightly looser restrictions. The state faced a new surge in late March and early April related to the “general community spread” and possible Easter gatherings, with cases numbering around 300 or more cases per day. Delaware now had an average of 266 cases per day over the past week, as of April 29.
“My hope is that as soon as possible [we can have higher indoor capacity at restaurants] but it depends on the data, ”Carney said at his April 28 town hall. “We must first improve the trajectory. But let’s be clear, indoor environments pose a greater risk of transmission. You know.”
This marks the 14th month of the pandemic and a sort of corporate capacity cap, but notably the restaurant community is still capped at 50% domestic capacity in February. Carrie Leishman, President and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association, noted the great disparity between small businesses and large outdoor events.
At the end of March, Delaware eased its restrictions on outdoor gatherings, allowing up to 150 people in some venues to attend weddings, funerals, sporting events, concerts and concerts. other events. For the first time since summer 2019, Dover International Speedway will have fans in the stands from May 14-16. The Delaware Division of Public Health has approved Dover International Speedway’s plan for 20,000 fans to attend.
“We have no problem following the guidelines, but when there is special access for large events for spectators while our restaurants are still grappling with the devastating financial fallout of last year, it is just not an equal domain, ”Leishman said. “We must have reasons, not appeasement, to allow restaurants to open more fully. We must have a plan. “
Delaware sticking to 50% of indoor dining requirements comes at a time when neighboring states have started to backtrack. Maryland has lifted strict indoor capacity requirements, but still requires social distancing, while Pennsylvania may allow restaurants to open at 75% if they agree to appear on a wide COVID compliance register. of State.
Mike Tatoian, president and CEO of Dover International Speedway, told the Delaware Business Times that the “Monster Mile” is scheduled to operate at half of its usual capacity, with fans seated in groups but leaving enough space between them. social distancing. Masks will be required during races.
“Last year we offered our fans to take their tickets for the canceled 2021 event. We have never stopped selling tickets, so now we are at a point where we have sold over 20,000. tickets, ”Tatoian said. “We are now reaching out to the fans to see if they want to come or if they would rather get a refund or a credit for 2022. Our fans will tell us how safe they feel.”
According to Dover International Speedway’s 2020 annual report, the company lost $ 3.8 million in event revenue from 2019, including lower revenue from corporate sponsorships, merchandise, concessions and sales. parking races that were postponed in May and then held without fans in August. But broadcasting revenues rose to $ 35.6 million as many Americans stayed indoors and chose to watch sports on TV.
“I like to think optimistically so I never thought we wouldn’t be back in 2021,” Tatoian said. “Data trends have shown us that the number of cases and hospitalizations are going down and that people are getting vaccinated, which has made it possible to have fans. We were challenged last year, but this year will be good, and I believe next year will be even better. “
Meanwhile, Carney said the signs of the Delawarians being vaccinated were encouraging to ultimately push Delaware to lower restrictions. About half of Delaware’s eligible population (16 and over) has received a vaccine, and at least 28% of Delawareans are fully vaccinated. The state announced that five walk-in immunization clinics are offering the two-dose Pfizer vaccine to anyone 16 years of age and older in communities across the three counties.
“The motivation should be for all of us to get vaccinated and follow the mitigation rules so we can get back to our favorite restaurants faster,” Carney said.