PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The Allegheny County Health Department says a spike in coronavirus cases in the Pittsburgh area has been linked to several bars, and not protests.
The Health Department reports 83 new cases Monday, the county-wide total now stands at 2,651 cases.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says since COVID-19 cases were first confirmed in the state, the county has led the state in the number of new cases.
"We have seen some alarming spikes. We have seen more cases in the last two days than in the previous two weeks," Fitzgerald said.
The case investigator asks people to provide information on any mass gathering that they may have been in the few days prior to being tested or showing symptoms. In those investigations, a variety of bars and restaurants were named -- with several of them coming up multiple times.
Officials say the number of times someone has attended a protest is in the single digits, and most of the time they were not even at the same protest.
In response, the county is banning on-site alcohol consumption at bars and restaurants.
It'll soon be last call at the Highland Bar in West View. Owner James Brink says bars can't make a go of it serving Coke and Pepsi.
"Everybody's pulling us in three different ways and that ultimately means we have to shut down, right then and there. It's putting maybe 14, 15 people out of work," he said.
But the county health department said three straight days of record COVID-19 cases demanded decisive action. It appears mostly young vacationers returning from hot-spot states brought the virus back with them, and Fitzgerald says it has now been spread by the patrons and/or employees of close to a dozen bars in Oakland, South Side and Lawrenceville, the North Hills and South Hills.
"It really has been a spike among bars and restaurants and primarily young people," says Fitzgerald.
The positivity rate just two weeks ago was 1 to 2%, and now it's averaging 6%, with some days even higher than that.
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The next two weeks will be critical in bringing the virus under control, and Fitzgerald is asking for the cooperation of the public.
"If you're outdoors, if you wear your mask, if you're social distanced -- very, very low of spreading it. We need businesses as well as people to be responsible," he said.
Masks are still required for all businesses, meaning that they must be worn in restaurants when seated and can only be taken off when eating and drinking.
If any bar violates the order, officials say they will be investigated and will be ordered to close for at least one week.
The bars and restaurants can continue to serve food on-site and offer to-go cocktails.
Meanwhile, the Highland is offering bargain beer prices over the next 24 hours.
"Just to get rid of all the inventory, because we don't know how long we're going to be shut down. Could be a week, couple days -- who knows?" says Brink.
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