PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Allegheny County officials say they are banning on-site consumption of alcohol following a recent surge of new Coronavirus cases.
"For the first time since COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the state, Allegheny County led the state in the number of new COVID-19 cases," said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. "We're going the wrong direction. While most resident and businesses have been following the rules, these requirements and mitigation measures address the hot spots that have been identified during case investigations. These are severe steps, but we have to take steps now to limit the community spread that endangers those who are older, high-risk or otherwise immunocompromised."
The order for bars to end on-site serving of alcohol was put into effect immediately and will begin being enforced at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday. The order will apply to any business establishment in Allegheny County.
Bars will be permitted to still serve food on-site and can offer to-go cocktails. However, people cannot consume alcohol on the premises of bars. South Side and Oakland are particular areas of concern, according to Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen.
The Allegheny County Health Department also announced that complaints regarding establishments not following the order can be sent through a webform on their website or via email at COVIDcomplaints@alleghenycounty.us.
"I know Dr. Bogen and her team -- we do not make these decisions lightly," Fitzgerald said. "We know how important the economy is, we know how important the restaurant and bar economy is to our region. We want them to succeed. We want them to succeed safely."
Other restrictions from the county include that masks must be worn by patrons unless they are eating or drinking at the establishment. Any businesses that violate these restrictions will be investigated by the county and forced to shut down for at least a week. Restaurants are asked to maintain physical distancing, decrease occupancy to 50% and prioritize outdoor seating.
Bogen recommended a 14 day period of self-isolation for people who travel out of state or to have two negative COVID-19 tests with at least 48 hours apart from the first test.
The announcement came as a disappointment to Richard Rattner, who owns the William Penn Tavern in Shadyside.
"It's not fair to my staff," he said. "A lot of them were on unemployment, they came off unemployment. Now they're going to have to go back on unemployment."
Rattner said he believes all the bars and restaurants in Allegheny County are being punished for the actions of a few who weren't following state orders and weren't cited for it.
"If they maybe would have made examples down the road, a couple weeks ago," Rattner said. "A lot more people would have been in compliance as well as the fact that we wouldn't be having this arbitrary decision made against bars."
The health department reported a new daily record of 96 new Coronavirus cases in a day on Sunday. On Saturday, the health department reported 90 new COVID-19 cases. Total cases have reached 393 during the week.
"We don't want to do the next shutdown, but we may have to if these numbers don't improve over the coming days so we're going to continue to monitor this, we're going to continue to have our contact tracing," Fitzgerald said. "Until we have a vaccine until we have a cure we're going to be in this situation. There's going to be good weeks and bad weeks, good days and bad days, things that are going to open up, things that might get shut down, things that might get shut down temporarily or things that might get shut down permanently."
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