HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- Governor Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that COVID-19 mitigation orders except for the mask mandate will be lifted effective May 31, starting at 12:01 a.m. on that day.
"The masking order will be lifted when 70% of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated," Wolf wrote on Twitter.
Right now, the state says a little more than 50 percent of the statewide population has received at least one dose.
In Westmoreland County, 42 percent of the population is partially vaccinated and 30 percent is fully vaccinated. In Allegheny County, 69 percent of people are partially vaccinated and 44 percent are fully vaccinated.
At this time, Pennsylvania is still asking that people refer to CDC guidance on COVID-19 to remain safe and healthy. Testing and case reports will continue as they have, according to the state.
The requirements that have been in place for hospitals and long-term care facilities will continue to be in effect and will not be affected by the May 31 easing of restrictions.
The Proclamation of Disaster Emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic issued by Governor Wolf remains in place.
Tuesday's news was welcomed by restaurant owners across the state.
"This is an announcement that we all felt should have been made a month ago," said Melissa Bova with the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.
Restaurants and businesses will be able to open at full capacity on May 31. There will no longer be restrictions when it comes to limits and distancing, but it may not be as easy as opening the front door.
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"We have employment issues. How do we bring our employees back to work? How do we solve those problems? How do we overcome the 15 months of investment into the mitigations that the industry has made?" Bova said.
Restaurant owners ask for patience as the industry takes the next step. The one thing that won't be changing is the mask mandate. The governor said the mandate will continue until 70 percent of the state's population is vaccinated.
"That's where we think we will be in safe territory to be able to not wear the masks," said Senator Jay Costa.
So when could we reach that 70 percent?
"I'm not certain. Getting that last 20 to 30 percent of people fully vaccinated, meaning more than one dose, is going to be a different type of challenge than what we had the last four months," said UPMC's Dr. Don Yealy.
Yealy said gears are shifting to address vaccine deniers to try to reach herd immunity, but he believes it is still safe to lift the restrictions at the end of the month.
"Having that mask available and wearing it will always be a good idea. And just using sense when you are indoors and not in a wide-open space by being careful with distance and who you are around," Yealy said.
While this move to lift restrictions feels like the end, Senator Costa told KDKA that the vaccine task force will continue to monitor case numbers, especially in June. If cases spike or a new strain is found, the group could reevaluate and add new restrictions if necessary.
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