How were Delaware businesses deemed essential? Answers unclear as open records law paused
From The News Journal
Walmart is able to sell shoes and clothes at its Delaware stores during the coronavirus pandemic, but shoe and clothing shops cannot.
A Dover hemp store is permitted to remain open and sell cannabidiol, while a nearby competitor – which also sells the marijuana derivative, in addition to pipes and T-shirts – cannot.
And pet stores are open to regular customers while gun shops are seeing customers by appointment only.
The question of how Delaware deemed specific businesses or industries “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic is being asked by a growing chorus of employees, business owners and customers.
Yet, Gov. John Carney’s administration has not provided clear answers. With Freedom of Information Act requirements rescinded during a state of emergency, the public may not know for a prolonged period of time how the state settled on the economic restrictions.
Responding to a ballooning health crisis last month, Carney declared a state of emergency in Delaware, and with it published a list of industries he would allow to remain open while others would be ordered to close.
On Wednesday, The News Journal sent Carney’s office a list of questions on the topic, including inquiries about specific exceptions to the state’s essential-business list.
In an emailed reply, Carney administration officials repeated past proclamations but did not directly answer each question. The response said the economic restrictions “are intended to prevent a surge in (coronavirus) cases, preserve our hospital capacity and save lives.”
The governor took advice from health experts and agencies outside Delaware while considering which businesses could operate while limiting the spread of the virus, and which products the public needs to be safe, they said in the email.
“The first priority has always been the safety of Delawareans. Within that context, we did our best to balance public health with keeping businesses operating when possible,” the email stated.
Despite the assurances, an outspoken owner of a Dover hemp and smoke shop called the government’s process of deciding essential businesses “arbitrary and unfair.”