CP photo: Kaycee Orwig
Outdoor diners in Pittsburgh's South Side neighborhood
Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced that Pennsylvania will be loosening gathering restrictions for indoor and outdoor ventures, with those restrictions being lifted completely two weeks later.
Effective Mon., May 17, the maximum capacity limits for indoor events and gatherings will be increased to 50% and outdoor events and gatherings will be upped to 75%. Then on Mon., May 31, all gathering restrictions will be lifted entirely.
In a press release from May 4
, Pennsylvania Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam encouraged all Pennsylvanians to get vaccinated as a way to combat COVID-19 spread, and said the state is set to loosen restrictions because of its good progress at distributing the vaccine. As of May 12, nearly 4 million Pennsylvanians are fully vaccinated, about one-third of the state’s population.
“We continue to make significant progress in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and as more Pennsylvania adults get vaccinated, and guidance from the CDC evolves, we can continue to move forward with our reopening efforts,” said Beam.
Wolf tweeted on May 11 that municipalities, school districts, restaurants, and venues may continue to implement stricter mitigation efforts, if they so choose. These new announcements have already led to changes at Pittsburgh events, like at the Three Rivers Arts Fest
Allegheny County officials held a press conference on Wed., May 12 and spoke about how the county will be following the state’s announcements in loosening and lifting restrictions. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said that Wolf was in Allegheny County today and was able to update him on the new measures.
Fitzgerald said the county will continue to follow the advice of top health advisers and reminded Pittsburgh of the last pandemic to hit the region and the dangers of ignoring health officials.
“When we went back to the last pandemic, we did not listen to our health interests,” said Fitzgerald, noting that local Pittsburgh officials back in 1918 ignored health guidance around the Spanish Flu pandemic. “As a result, we led the nation in deaths from the Spanish Flu.”
Fitzgerald added he wants more people in Allegheny County to get vaccinated
and said he supports Carnegie Mellon University requiring its student population to be vaccinated by fall.
Allegheny County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen said that while more than 96% of county residents ages 65 and older have been vaccinated, the county still has some work to do in vaccinating young people. She said 51% of people 20-35 have been vaccinated and 17% of people 17-18.
“We have literally vaccinated somewhere between 30-40 million people,” said Bogen of the nationwide vaccine effort. “These are remarkably safe vaccines. I have incredible confidence in these vaccines.”
Bogen added that coronavirus cases in Allegheny County
have also been dropping, and the county is now averaging 170 daily cases this week. She said this is the lowest average daily counts have been since October 2020.
Mask mandates are still in effect and will continue to be even after all gathering restrictions are lifted on May 31. According to the state Health Department, the current order requiring Pennsylvanians to wear masks will be lifted when 70% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated. Masks and face coverings are still required indoors and outdoors when away from the home. However, fully vaccinated Pennsylvanians are not required to wear a mask during certain activities, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention