CRI News

Elongated COVID-19 'Emergency' Severely Damaged Delaware
Balancing powers between Executive and Legislative branches in emergencies

By Charlie Copeland, Director

Center for Economic & Fiscal Policy

April 11, 2024



"NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOHN C. CARNEY, pursuant to Title 20, Chapter 31 of the Delaware Code, do hereby declare a State of Emergency in Delaware. This State of Emergency will be effective as of Friday, March 13, 2020, at 8:00 a.m. E.S.T., and shall continue until terminated as provided under state law. The nature of the emergency is the public health threat from the COVID-19. Along with such other actions authorized by Title 20, Chapter 31 of the Delaware Code..." (Source: Delaware Governor's Statement of Emergency website)



On March 13, 2020, the governor of Delaware initiated a state of emergency in response to COVID-19. Over three years later, Governor John Carney ended his executive "emergency" mandate, a full two years and nine months after the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved.


It is clear by almost every measure that by June 2021, the emergency was over. Vaccines were available for those interested in them. Treatment protocols were refined and working (including the antiviral Paxlovid). There was widespread evidence that people under 50 were largely unaffected. And many states responded that summer by reopening their economies and leisure activities.


But in Delaware, it took another 23 months for the governor to end his overreach. Why so long?


The short answer is that the legislature did not have the power to stop him. Current state law rests all emergency powers in the governor of Delaware, and that turned out to be a big mistake, as shown below. That is why the Caesar Rodney Institute endorses HB-245 - A bill requiring the governor to consult with the General Assembly within 180 days after starting a State of Emergency before such an order can be extended.



COVID Costs Delaware Citizens - Big Time


The Paragon Health Institute extensively analyzed COVID-19 impacts for all 50 States and the District of Columbia across three outcomes: Health, Economy, and Education. Overall, Delaware got screwed.


  • Health: Let me start by saying that Delaware's short-term health outcomes during COVID-19 were slightly better than the average in the United States. This could have been the result of the governor's three-plus-year emergency order, or it could be just as likely that Delawareans took care of themselves, got vaccinated, and avoided others when sick. In other words, people are smart and know how to care for themselves once they are given access to correct information.


  • Economy: According to the Paragon Institute's report, Delaware's economy was the 9th worst-performing state during the pandemic. This poor economic performance continued a decades-long trend discussed in previous Caesar Rodney Institute economic studies comparing Delaware to its neighboring states, the states in the Southeast, and the states on the West Coast.


  • Education: Table 1.0 below lists the states with the largest decline in scores on the National Assessment for Education Progress (The federal government's nationwide test) between 2019 and 2022. Alarmingly, Delaware's educational performance ranked as the lowest overall in the nation. Across all categories, Delaware consistently ranked as either the worst or second worst performing state. Even West Virginia kicks our backside.



TABLE 1.0:

Worst Performing U.S. States by Decrease in Test Scores between 2019-2022

(Table Source: Hechinger Report on State Comparison of Covid Learning Changes)





Governor Carney's unnecessarily long and stringent statewide lockdown and emergency regulations knocked Delaware further back than any other state in the country. This injury follows decades of lagging GDP growth, abysmal educational outcomes, and a decreasing percentage of people in the workforce.


It should not be up to one person to decide the fates of hundreds of thousands of Delawareans. We elect legislators to make the law, not the governor. HB-245 should be passed to return the Delaware Legislature to its rightful position as the creator of laws before we have another disaster.


We urge you to take action to ensure that your voice is heard. Share this message with others and contact your local legislator to discuss the importance of passing the "Emergency Management Bill (HB 245)."


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