HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — Gov. Tom Wolf announced broad new statewide restrictions on bars and restaurants and larger indoor gatherings Wednesday as Pennsylvania reported another nearly 1,000 new infections, continuing a recent resurgence of COVID-19 in parts of the state.
Nightclubs will be shut down, bars will also be closed unless they also offer dine-in meals, and bars and restaurants will be limited to 25% capacity.
Alcohol can still be sold to-go and customers can sit at non-bar seating in outdoor areas.
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Indoor events and gatherings of more than 25 people will be prohibited, as well as outdoor gatherings of more than 250. And businesses will be required to have their employees work remotely to the extent possible.
There are no changes to gyms and fitness facilities, but they are "directed to prioritize outdoor physical fitness activities." All activities must follow the mask mandate and social distancing.
"This is the virus speaking," he says. "The virus is making the rules here, we're just trying to anticipate what those rules are and doing what we can to reduce the risk that virus is going to do a lot of damage to Pennsylvania."
Gov. Wolf says there are three "catalysts" for increases in cases. He says people aren't wearing masks or following social distancing guidelines when they are out at bars and restaurants. He's also pointing to people traveling out of state -- both people coming back to Pennsylvania and people visiting Pennsylvania -- and "a lack of national coordination."
"During the past week, we have seen an unsettling climb in new COVID-19 cases," Gov. Wolf says.
"When we hit our peak on April 9, we had nearly two thousand new cases that day with other days' cases hovering around 1,000. Medical experts looking at the trajectory we are on now are projecting that this new surge could soon eclipse the April peak. With our rapid case increases we need to act again now."
Wolf's order, which takes effect Thursday, risked major backlash in large swaths of the state where the virus has largely been kept at bay.
"Businesses and individuals in violation of these orders, issued pursuant to the authority granted to the Governor and the Secretary of Health under the law, including the Pennsylvania Disease Control and Prevention Law, could be subject to fines, business closure or other applicable enforcement measures," a press release from the governor's office says.
Pennsylvania's recently elevated statewide virus numbers have been driven in large part by increased spread in the Pittsburgh area, where officials attribute the spike to younger people and others congregating in bars and restaurants.
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The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association released a statement in response to the order:
"Today Pennsylvania pumped the breaks on reopening of taverns and restaurants. The revised statewide mitigation order in part now limits the industry to 25% indoor occupancy, and requires all patrons seated indoors to be at a booth or table, and ordering food.
"At a time when the industry is already struggling, this makes matters worse.
"The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association calls upon the state to develop a bailout package, specific for the industry.
"Our Members are paying their yearly licensing fees to the state, but not being allowed to operate fully. In addition, business loans, rent, utilities, and industry vendors still must be paid out of reduced revenue.
"For starters, Pennsylvania should immediately eliminate all state fees associated with running a tavern or restaurant. In addition, higher discounts should be provided to licensed establishments purchasing liquor from the state. Furthermore, additional financial assistance should be included.
"In today's news conference, Governor Wolf said that the state is at a tipping point which forced it to act to prevent COVID-19 spread. Let's not forget that the tavern and restaurant industry also is at a tipping point. Without help, we will see more small business restaurants and taverns not survive."
Allegheny County, which has already imposed temporary restrictions on restaurants and bars, reported 246 additional infections on Wednesday from tests performed between June 30 and July 14. Infections numbers have also been up in counties ringing Allegheny.
The health department reported 994 new positive virus cases Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to more than 97,000. The health department reported the results of nearly 29,000 virus tests, the highest one-day total since the beginning of the pandemic.
Health officials also reported 26 new deaths.
The Philadelphia school district, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that it plans to resume limited in-person instruction in the fall, with most students in class just two days per week and learning remotely the other three.
More information on the Coronavirus pandemic:
- CDC Coronavirus Information
- CDC Global Map of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases
- Pennsylvania Department of Health Information
- Allegheny County Health Department Information
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