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Fireworks canceled in Dewey

Shannon McNaught * Delaware
shannon.marvel@doverpost.com
Sussex Countian

UPDATE, Tuesday, June 30: Fireworks set to be hosted by Alex Pires' Highway One in Dewey Beach on July 4 have been canceled.

The Delaware Division of Small Businesses sent a letter to Pires today, June 30, pointing out that the governor's June 14 modification to the emergency order prohibits all event of more than 250 people. Those seeking to host such an event are required to submit a plan to the division for consideration at least seven days prior.

Even though the deadline to submit a plan has passed, it would have required considering the density of attendees, enforcing social distancing and consideration of the level of COVID-19 transmissions in the local community.

"Based on public postings and advertisements, you are actively encouraging people to crowd your establishments, including encouraging standing room at your restaurants which is currently prohibited, and the public beach in Dewey Beach," the letter stated.

The letter also noted that the rate of positive tests in the 19971 zip code is at 9% and that the level of cases in the area has increased ten-fold over the last week.

"The event poses significant health risks for attendees and the state. You did not submit a plan to host this event nor did you address any of the minimum requirements, thereby violating the [emergency order]," the letter concluded. "Your anticipated large event is illegal, is in direct violation of the Governor’s order, endangers the public health, and may not proceed. The Governor’s order has the force and effect of law. Please note that further failure to comply with the Governor’s order constitutes a criminal offense and may result in fines and imprisonment."

Around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30, Pires posted on Facebook that "Governor Carney has ordered us to cancel" the fireworks.

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Sunday, June 28: Dewey Beach officials are concerned July 4 fireworks could draw unmanageable crowds.

All of Sussex County’s other fireworks celebrations - Rehoboth Beach, Bethany Beach, Millsboro and Laurel –have been canceled.

“Alex Pires has always done the town a big favor, and I mean a big favor, by having the fireworks,” said Mayor Dale Cooke. “But we’re the only game in town, so to speak. I’m just worried we will be so overwhelmed we won’t be able to handle the crowd.”

Pires’ Highway One company is hosting the fireworks. Reached by phone on June 28 he declined to answer when asked if the fireworks were still on.

The fireworks are launched from a barge on the bay, which is not in the town's jurisdiction. Highway One's permit was issued by the state fire marshal.

Earlier this month, the Delaware Division of Public Health announced that several teens in Dewey for senior week had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“At least three out of more than a dozen teens who were living in a rental unit in Dewey Beach recently tested positive for COVID-19. While there, the teens attended several crowded gatherings in Rehoboth, potentially exposing as many as a hundred or more to the virus,” the division said in a statement.

Dewey Beach businesses responded by scaling back operations, some closing, to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Starboard, Starboard Raw, Hammerheads, and Nalu are closed until Tuesday, June 30. Grottos, Dewey Beach Country Club and Woody’s have reduced services.

“I have to give credit to all the business in town,” Cooke said. “They weren’t required to, but a number closed down for weekend for extra cleaning and sent employees to be tested.”

The Delaware Department of Emergency Management will offer free coronavirus testing in Dewey Beach, at the Starboard, on Monday, June 29, from 1 to 6 p.m. You can register in advance here.

Cooke asked for Dewey Beach residents and visitors to take precautions.

“Wear a mask – that’s the biggest thing,” he said.