Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine provided an update on COVID-19 in the state Thursday, and announced new restrictions to help slow the spread.
"The situation we are in right now is dire," Wolf said. "It's become clear that we need to take further mitigation efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."
Beginning Saturday, Wolf said extracurricular school activities, such as sports practices, are suspended. Restaurants will not be permitted to offer indoor service, but outdoor seating and takeout are still allowed. Business is also being temporarily suspended for other indoor facilities such as theaters, museums, movies, casinos, and gyms, though retailers can operate at 50% capacity.
Indoor gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people and outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 people maximum.
The measures go into effect this Saturday, December 12, at 12:01 a.m. and expire Monday, January 4, at 8 a.m.
"It's the virus that is dictating this," Wolf said. "If we want to fight this virus, that's what we're going to have to deal with," he said, adding that the situation is "frustrating" and "painful."
Wolf encouraged residents to order takeout to help they, and also urged Congress to pass a relief bill to help businesses.
"We need our federal leaders to step up and provide the support these businesses need," he said.
Levine said the state is seeing a concerning increase in coronavirus cases, with the total number of cases passing 450,000 in recent weeks. More than 12,000 deaths in the state have been attributed to COVID-19, with about 1,000 of those occurring in the last week, she said. There's also an increase in infections in younger residents, Levine said.
Wolf said Wednesday he has tested positive for COVID-19 but was "feeling well" and didn't have any symptoms. He said he was continuing to perform his duties remotely. He said Thursday that his most recent test came back negative, but he remained in quarantine.
"My positive test is a reminder that no one is immune from COVID, that following all precautions as I have done is not a guarantee, but it is what we know to be vital to stopping the spread of the disease," Wolf said in a statement.
He asked all Pennsylvanians to wear a mask, stay home as much as possible, and keep a social distance from people outside of their households.