How COVID-19 has affected my small beach town

By Lauren Kelley
May 2, 2020

COVID-19 has forced Delaware beaches and parks to close indefinitely. Photo by iDewey

COVID-19 has affected everyone differently and I truly believe that nothing regarding social interaction will be the same after this pandemic is over. The other day at the grocery store, I had somewhat of an odd encounter while being introduced to someone.

I ran into a friend and we exchanged hellos- from 6 feet apart with our now mandatory face masks on. She was with her sister, whom I had never met, so she introduced her to me. Normally, I would go for a handshake when meeting new people but I didn’t even think about sticking my hand out in this situation.

Unfortunately, hand shaking upon introduction is something that has been put on pause. I often wonder if it is something that will be phased out of social interaction completely in the future.

In fact, Denmark is struggling with having to halt the use of handshakes, as a handshake is what legally seals the naturalization process of a new citizen to the country.

Denmark is the only European country to have put this policy into place. It has existed for a few years and been highly disliked by some Danish residents as well as lawmakers in other European countries.

Because social contact is one of the highest probable ways to spread the virus, it was smart of Denmark to have made the decision to restrict this physical act, although it unfortunately causes problems for those struggling with citizenship issues.

In the United States, there are states that require you to wear masks and gloves in order to enter certain establishments.

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In Delaware, wearing a mask in public became mandatory by Governor Carney on Tuesday, April 28.

Just two months ago, I would have never predicted this.

I live in Dewey Beach, Delaware and like many other areas, my community was not prepared for the pandemic. Although so many festivities were shut down on St. Patrick’s Day due to the State of Emergency put in place by the governor, many people of all ages went out to bars or had parties over the weekend- including me.

My friend and I celebrating Opening Weekend. Photo by Lauren Kelley

My home of Dewey Beach has always been a hot spot for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, as we deem it our “Opening Weekend.” People flock from near and far to gather into tightly packed bars for drinking, live performances and other shenanigans.

Thursday, March 12 was when the biggest bar with the biggest parties of the weekend decided it was best for them to close their doors at 6 p.m. every night- the time when the crowds start to get thicker.

This did not stop the day time crowds from packing into the establishment to celebrate the weekend. This bar was well over capacity and, I’m sure, made thousands upon thousands of dollars by just being open during the day.

I will admit this raised a lot of concern for me. Although that big name bar is not a place I would have gone during this party weekend, I knew that if they were shutting their doors, then something was up.

All I could think of when I saw photos and videos of people at this bar was, “Wow. That is a petri dish for this coronavirus.” People were body to body and sharing drinks like Governor Carney didn’t put Delaware into a State of Emergency before the weekend began.

Despite the warnings and criticism from some, I still went out and had a blast with my friends all weekend. The irritating thing, however, was the out-of-towners who still came to town for this fun weekend even after event cancellations. Many of Dewey Beaches biggest fans are those that live in the northern part of the state in Wilmington- University of Delaware territory.

The first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Delaware were sourced from University of Delaware, and this raised concern for many local Dewey Beach residents. My friends and I were not excited about all of the students coming to our town for the weekend.

By the end of the weekend, people began to take COVID-19 a little more seriously, and Governor Carney put our state into lock down mode after much criticism from Delawareans about letting St. Patrick’s Day festivities continue.

By St. Patrick’s Day, the Tuesday after the weekend, I knew three people personally who tested positive for COVID-19 that were out partying in the same places as I was. It is believed that the spike of cases in Delaware is largely due in part to the festivities that were held in Dewey Beach on St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

Delaware Department of Health and Social Services shared this photo after the busy weekend. Photo by

Some people in my town believe that the spike in cases and more serious mandates put in place in Delaware could have been avoided if party areas were ordered to shut down sooner.

One of the hardest mandates that Delaware beach locals have dealt with is that of beach closures. I know at the beginning of quarantine, my friends and I thought, “Oh this won’t be that bad, at least we can go to the beach!”

That changed quickly.

A big problem that we face during this pandemic in my town is tourists. I live at the beach and frankly, the economy here thrives on the money of the visitors in the summertime.

Rehoboth Beach boardwalk on the first nice sunny day in quarantine. Photo by iDewey

The first nice day we had during quarantine, our boardwalk was packed along with our beaches and state parks. Out of state license plates lined the streets. Locals, along with myself, were awestruck at the influx of people coming to our small town during a time when travel was frowned upon.

Within 48 hours, a new mandate was put in place. All beaches in Delaware were required to close, including the infamous boardwalk. You can no longer walk, exercise or walk your dogs on the boardwalk and beaches of Delaware.

Now, weeks later, it is May 1 and our beaches are still closed. The City of Rehoboth Beach has already cancelled Fourth of July celebrations and all town events leading up to it.

Residents are wondering if we have been robbed of our summer season and are looking for a light at the end of the tunnel.


Lauren Kelley

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