Delaware Gov. John Carney meets with staffers during a tour of the State Health Operations Center on Monday, March 16, to get an update on how Delaware is monitoring and responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Delaware Gov. John Carney on Sunday issued a stay-at-home order, closing “nonessential” businesses to attempt to blunt the intensity of the spread of the new coronavirus.

Carney’s emergency declaration takes effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Under the order, Delaware’s 975,000 residents who otherwise don’t work at the exempted businesses will be allowed only to leave their homes to get groceries or a prescription or see a doctor. They also can engage in other activities essential to their health or that of their family members, including their pets.

Residents also can participate in outdoor activities, but must adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The Democratic governor said in an online video that the new restrictions are needed to stem the rate of community spread and to help hospitals handle an expected increase in patients. Violating the order can be a criminal offense, according to his amended emergency declaration.

Neighboring states have taken similar actions, Carney said, “and we don’t want Delaware to become a destination for residents of other states seeking a more permissive environment.”

Similar orders have been issued in New Jersey and New York. Philadelphia has announced similar restrictions. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered “non-life-sustaining” businesses be shuttered.

An earlier emergency declaration from Carney prohibited public gatherings of 50 or more people, but he said not enough people were heeding those warnings. Carney on Saturday had closed the state beaches because too many people were visiting them.

“I understand that these restrictions will have real consequences for real people, but the consequences of not imposing these restrictions are way too serious,” Carney said.

Delaware health officials reported more than 55 positive COVID-19 cases as of late Sunday, up from 40 on Saturday. Six individuals are hospitalized and three are critically ill, the Delaware Division of Public Health reported.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Businesses that are able to remain open will face consequences if they don’t follow federal health guidelines to prevent the spread, Carney said: “We will have no choice but to shut down, too.”

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