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Am I missing one of the steps necessary in removing the cover? Lastly, I tried to wrap a rag around the handle and used pliers to try to pull up on it but that also didn't help.
In fact, even with the rag and the teeth of the pliers covered with electrical tape, it still scratched up the cover. It looks like you have one of Delta's older models. Looking at the exploded diagram for this model shows part H24 the handle covers with only a set screw holding it in place.
If you've already removed that and the cover still won't lift off, it may be bound up on the stem from having been turned too far in one direction or the other if it was leaking, I could imagine someone may have tried extra-hard to turn it off. I would try slowly but forcefully turning the faucet handle past its resistance point, with it in the on position first, then if that doesn't loosen it, try doing the same but the other direction with it in the off position. You may have to alternate this a few times to get it to free itself from the teeth on the stem.
If none of that works, there is a retaining nut on the underside of the sink counter part RP in the diagram. It's not a very thick nut, so you'll have to put your hand right against the underside of the counter top to feel it.
The threaded part of the stem assembly likely extends well past the nut, you'll need to make many turns to get it off. Taking the handle out from the counter will let you examine it in more detail and you can take tools to the less attractive parts to gain torque, hopefully avoiding any more scratches on the handle itself. Just be careful not to grip too tightly on the screw threads or you won't be able to reattach it to the counter!
It should just pull off. If it doesn't, you might try gently wiggling it side to side as you pull up. If you have a rubber or plastic mallet, you could try giving it a gentle tap to free it up. The trick is to be gentle enough to not break anything, but firm enough to knock it loose.
If you are sure it should slide straight up and you have removed the set screw, I would try a moulding bar or another type of thin pry bar inserted at the margin where the faucet and the trim ring come together. You will also need a small block of wood to use as a fulcrum to raise the pry bar high enough to be at the level of the aforementioned margin and to protect the counter top. Start by prying gently all the way around faucet a little at a time and increase pressure until you get movement.
Only you can decide how badly you want to save the faucet and use as much force as you desire to remove it. Unfortunately, this method is likely to cause some damage to the lower edge of the faucet depending on how much pressure is required.
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