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Delaware closes bars in beach towns ahead of July Fourth weekend as coronavirus cases rise

Planning to head to the Delaware beaches for the Fourth of July weekend? Don’t expect to be able to go to a bar.

Delaware Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday that he’s delaying Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan and closing all bars around the state’s beaches indefinitely because of a recent uptick in coronavirus cases.

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The Democratic governor didn’t put a timeline for when the restrictions might be lifted, saying at a news conference that the reopening will be delayed “until we get a better handle on where this surge is coming from and make sure that we nip it in the bud so it [coronavirus] doesn’t return.”

The governor said said the Rehoboth Beach area, Lewes, and south of Dewey Beach are all sources of concern with higher concentrations of the virus. Within the past few weeks, the state has an influx of cases among lifeguards, bar staff and some people who attended senior week celebrations, he said.

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Carney said there have been numerous citizen reports and photos circulating on social media that show bar staff and people on beaches who aren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

“Clearly we’ve had an outbreak among bars, restaurants and social activities in Delaware beaches,” he said. “We also have witnessed this across our state but particularly in the beach communities complacency with respect to mask wearing and social distancing.”

Coronavirus data from the state shows that average age of residents testing positive for coronavirus has shifted from 40-50 years old to 18-25.

Since March 11, Delaware has had 11,474 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases and 507 deaths. Sussex County, home to both Bethany and Dewey beach, account for nearly half the state’s total with more than 4,600 cases. At a Rehoboth Beach Beach testing event last week, more than 100 people tested positive for coronavirus, making up about 10% of those tested.

Outside the beach towns, other restaurants, bars and businesses are able to stay open at 60% capacity under the state’s Phase 2 plan.

Carney said he wants to be cautious about reopening the state and bars along the beaches, citing upticks in other states like Texas and Florida who have seen record-breaking numbers of positive COVID-19 cases the past several days.

Nearby Ocean City is following Maryland’s reopening guidelines, which allow restaurants to be open for indoor and outdoor dining at 50% capacity. Although the boardwalk has been packed at times, establishments like Fish Tails are getting creative to help promote social distancing. The popular seafood restaurants has ordered a set of giant inflatable rubber inner tubes to ensure that customers are separated physically from one another.

The Maryland beach town resides in Worcester County, which has reported 286 COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths. The county has not seen a recent spike in cases.

The state reported 305 new cases on Tuesday, bringing Maryland’s total to 67,559 and 3,062 deaths.

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