New set of temporary restrictions announced for PA, including shutting down indoor dining, and limiting gatherings | Coronavirus | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

New set of temporary restrictions announced for PA, including shutting down indoor dining, and limiting gatherings

click to enlarge CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Today, Gov. Tom Wolf announced a three-week long set of regulations to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, which includes shutting down indoor dining at bars and restaurants, limiting capacity at retail businesses, and suspending extracurricular school activities. The announcement comes after weeks of rapidly increasing coronavirus cases, including today's reported 11,972 cases in Pennsylvania, and 248 additional deaths. In total, 12,010 people in Pennsylvania have now died from COVID-19.

Wolf announced the measures during a virtual press conference from his home, where he is quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday after a routine test. Wolf mentioned that he is feeling fine, and tested negative today, but will continue to quarantine for the recommended time.

The new mitigation measures, which go into place on Sat., Dec. 12, and will remain in place until Mon., Jan. 4, 2021, are similar to ones put in place earlier in the pandemic, including shutting down all in-person, indoor dining at restaurants and bars (outdoor dining is still allowed). Indoor gatherings larger than 10 people are prohibited, and while places of worship are exempt from restrictions, the new temporary orders recommend virtual services.

Outdoor events of more than 50 people are prohibited. Indoor gyms and other exercise facilities must temporarily close, as well as all entertainment venues, including movie theaters, concert venues, museums, casinos, and other recreational businesses.

"With these measures in place, we hope to accomplish three goals: First, stop the devastating spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth," said Wolf in a press release. "Second, keep our hospitals and health care workers from becoming overwhelmed. And third, help Pennsylvanians get through the holiday season – and closer to a widely available vaccine – as safely as possible. This is a bridge to a better future in Pennsylvania.”

During the press conference, Department of Health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine noted that hospitals are beginning to see ICU beds fill up, and are expecting to see staff shortages in the near future. She also noted that the rate of people who have recovered from the virus has gone down, as around 50% of total Pennsylvania cases have occurred in the past month.

"Since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 37,500 cases among children ages 5 to 18, yet 9,500 of those cases occurred in the past two weeks," said Levine.

During the press conference, Wolf repeated several times that it's "not the fault" of restaurant and bar owners that they have to shutdown, or that their businesses happen to be the most vulnerable to the pandemic. He once again urged the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass the Restaurants Act, which would redirect relief funds bars and restaurants, and also criticized congress for not passing legislation.

"What I have been suggesting, and arguing for, and trying desperately to get since August is funding from the CARES act money that we have here in the state, and trying to engage the federal government to do more for the restaurant industry," said Wolf during the press conference. "None of us likes this situation. Nobody. But it is what it is, and we need to figure our way to best navigate through that."

In November, the Republican-led General Assembly moved forward with a plan that would use the remaining $1.3 billion of the state's relief aid to patch holes in the budget. Many people, both constituents and representatives, have tried to advocate for instead using the money to help the service industry. The week of Thanksgiving, Rep. Sara Innamorato (D-Lawrenceville), held a press conference, along with several restaurant and service industry workers, imploring her colleagues to act.

"The majority party of the Pennsylvania general assembly passed a politically expedient and compassionless budget, one balanced by raiding and redirecting Pennsylvania's remaining $1.3 billion of the pandemic relief fund," said Innamorato during the November press conference. "We know this $1.3 billion wasn't the panacea. It wasn't solving all of our woes, but it was something to help people right now in the short term."

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