Allegheny County closing bars and on-site alcohol consumption in result to spike in COVID-19 cases | Health | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Allegheny County closing bars and on-site alcohol consumption in result to spike in COVID-19 cases

Today, Allegheny County officials announced that bars will be forced to close immediately, and restaurants will not be allowed to serve alcohol on-site, in result to a recent spike in coronavirus cases. Enforcement will begin on Tue., June 30 at 5 p.m.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said at a press conference today that contact tracing completed by the county has shown a couple of hot spots since the county moved into green phase on June 5, and those hot spots have been bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Bars can still sell libations for take away.

Restaurants can still remain open, and can operate their dining rooms at 50% capacity and with physical distancing. Fitzgerald said that everyone should wear masks while in restaurants, including customers, except when eating. Restaurants and bars can still sell alcohol and cocktails to-go, but those beverages cannot be consumed on-site.

"We are going to be vigilant about enforcing the mask rule, and encourage people to be outside," said Fitzgerald, who added the county will be encouraging restaurants to expand patio space. He added that Pittsburgh city officials will be fast tracking permits to allow for restaurants to have more outdoor space on sidewalks and city streets.

Allegheny County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen said positive coronavirus cases in the county have reached an all-time daily and weekly high. She said the cases can't be traced to one or two specific locations, meaning that the cases are coming from mostly bars and restaurants from all over the county.

"I am very concerned," said Bogen. "I am concerned because they are rising rapidly, and have no known source. It shows community spread and we had almost no community spread before."

Bogen said contact tracing has shown that many cases are linked to people who had traveled out of state and visited nightlife and bars in states like Florida and coastal sections of the Carolinas. She said that the county decided to shut down bars and the onsite consumption of alcohol because drinking led to gatherings that violated physical distancing and people conversing in close proximity without masks.

Bogen suggested that anyone who has traveled out of state to quarantine themselves for 14 days and to get tested. She said she's concerned that the spike in positive tests will lead to an increase in hospitalizations. She said the cases have been primarily younger people, and that bars and restaurants in Oakland and South Side have been linked to cases, and she is worried that people with possible infections may be unknowingly bringing cases to their parents, aunts, and grandparents.

She addressed concerns about Allegheny County potentially moving back into the yellow or red phase and noted that since we are now more prepared than when the pandemic first arrived — there are now more Personal Protective Equipment for health-care facilities and frontline workers, and we now have the ability to contact trace and determine where cases are coming from — she doesn't foresee a need to move out of the green phase at this moment.

She says it is still safe to go out to other businesses, as long as masks are worn, physical distancing is adhered to, and hands are washed often. Bogen said part of the reason for the recent spike was that these things weren't happening at bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

"We want to make sure we can contain this and flatten the curve and send it back the other way," said Fitzgerald.  

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