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COVID-19 In Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf Eases Gathering Limits, Lifts Travel Restrictions

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

HARRISBURG (KDKA) - Gov. Tom Wolf is loosening some of the state's COVID-19 restrictions.

The governor announced Monday he's revising the mitigation order on gatherings and lifting the out-of-state travel restrictions.

The revised gathering limits now allow for 15% of maximum occupancy at indoor events, regardless of venue size. As for outdoor events, they're now allowed up to 20% maximum occupancy. That's only if people can still stay 6 feet apart.

There are also no more out-of-state travel restrictions, which were implemented in November and required people who traveled to another state to provide a negative COVID-19 test or quarantine when they came back to Pennsylvania.

The governor's office says the nationwide downward trend of cases, implementation of testing requirements and President Joe Biden's mask mandate for public transportation are reducing the risk of spreading the virus through interstate travel.

"Pennsylvania is taking a measured approach to revising or lifting mitigation orders. The reason we are seeing cases drop can be attributed, in part, to people following the mitigation efforts we have in place," Wolf said in a press release.

"Mask-wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene are making a difference and need to continue even as we see more and more people fully vaccinated. We need to balance protecting public health with leading the state to a robust economic recovery. We are lifting mitigation efforts only when we believe it is safe to do so."

The streets surrounding PPG Paints Arena are quiet and it's the same picture that has been painted for nearly a year.

"This business has been in my family longer than I've been alive so thinking it could end with me was kind of hard to think about," said Carly Moore.

Moore's family owns Souper Bowl. It's a staple for hockey fans, but up to this point, it's been a struggle with no fans in the stands for the Pittsburgh Penguins game.

"It's been hard. There've been a lot of tears, a lot of not knowing," Moore said.

Moore is calling Monday's announcement from the state a glimmer of hope. The loosening of gathering restrictions means 2,800 fans will head to Uptown for Pens games starting Tuesday.

"It really means we can keep the place open. We were starting to get to the point where it was looking pretty bleak, like it didn't look there was an end," Moore said.

Penguins CEO David Morehouse said the organization has planned for this return for nearly a year.

"Mobile ticketing, mobile parking, concession stands that are grab and go, touchless restrooms -- we have a drone that cleans the arena after the games," Morehouse said.

Morehouse said all the changes do come at a cost, but he's hoping to see even more fans inside the arena soon.

"I can tell you that 2,800 fans are not going to alleviate the great cost our ownership has had to go through in the last year and the employees who've taken pay cuts or workers who were furloughed or all the businesses that depend on the Penguins," Morehouse said.

WATCH: KDKA's Nicole Ford reports

It's not just sports venues that are impacted by the changes. The outdoor gathering limits increasing to 20% is a welcome change for the wedding business.

"My one couple was about to send out invitations for 28 people and that has increased to 42. They are pretty stoked because that's almost double than they originally thought," said Ali Simcho.

Simcho is the co-owner of Wanderlust Weddings and Events. She's hoping this increase is only the beginning but is still advising her clients to prepare for the worst.

"At this point, kind of have an A, B, C guest list, so that early on, if you are able to send a second-round by April 1st, this number does continue to grow," Simcho said.

Simcho said she is hopeful weddings could increase to 50% since it typically includes people you are around in your family, and restaurants are at 50% and people are surrounded by strangers.

The PIAA said it will review the capacity limits for the upcoming winter sports postseason events and "make all best efforts to accommodate schools' and their families."

"These revised restrictions may allow some public sale of tickets based upon occupancy and social distancing restrictions," the PIAA said.

The PIAA Board of Directors will discuss these topics and other items during a meeting Wednesday.

Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.

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