Delaware takes action after crowded food court photos surface; raises COVID concerns

NEWARK, Delaware (WPVI) -- According to AAA, 50 million Americans were expected to travel over this holiday weekend and that's down from last year, it's still more than many health officials would like to see.
As people ventured out to find some deals in Newark, Delaware, Action News spoke with some about post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 concerns.

"I've seen some of the testing spots, and every time I go by, they're so crowded. But I think I am going to go by to get tested," said Wanda Williams Nunnally of Townsend, Delaware.

Dr. Erik Polan, an assistant professor of internal medicine with the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, says if you didn't travel but saw people outside your immediate household, try to minimize going out and keep an eye out for symptoms.

"I think just keeping in contact with the individuals that you spent the holiday with, minimizing your exposure after, at least for the next week or so," said Polan.

Action News spoke with some people who traveled to see family.

"We see our kids so rarely we weren't going to miss it, and we've been very healthy all through this," said Debbie Bailie of Pensacola, Florida.

While Delaware doesn't require quarantine for out of state travelers, guidance from the state says traveling does pose a greater risk of spreading the virus. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are asking travelers from out of state to quarantine.

All three states have tightened restrictions in some way in advance of the holiday.

On Friday, photos of a busy food court at the Christiana Mall on Black Friday were posted online by the Delaware Restaurant Association.

The post read in part, "How do you advocate for celebrating Thanksgiving with only your immediate household... but also allow HUNDREDS of people to gather in common food court areas (without masks on) as these photos depict?"
"It just reminded me of the fact that as an industry, we're just asking for the same consideration that every other industry is being given," said Carl Georigi, vice-chair of the Delaware Restaurant Association. He's also the CEO of the Platinum Dining Group, which consists of six restaurants in northern Delaware.

Just this week, Delaware's indoor dining capacity went down from 60% to 30%, a blow to struggling restaurants. After the photos surfaced, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services imposed a 100 person limit on food courts, citing concerns at Christiana and other malls.

"It's helpful to know the government reacted so quickly... It'll be interesting to see how far it goes to help, to just level our playing field," said Georigi.

A spokesperson for the Christiana Mall says while the mall complied with state regulations on Friday, they have removed some of the tables from the food court seating area for the remainder of the holiday weekend.
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