PENNSYLVANIA - Governor Tom Wolf announced new restrictions for restaurants, bars and gatherings in Pennsylvania as cases continue to rise throughout the state.
“During the past week, we have seen an unsettling climb in new COVID-19 cases,” Gov. Wolf said. “When we hit our peak on April 9, we had nearly two thousand new cases that day with other days’ cases hovering around 1,000. Medical experts looking at the trajectory we are on now are projecting that this new surge could soon eclipse the April peak. With our rapid case increases we need to act again now.”
Nightclubs will be shut down, bars will also be closed unless they also offer dine-in meals, and bars and restaurants will be limited to 25 percent capacity under Wolf’s order. Cocktails to-go and carryout beverages are allowed.
Under the order, indoor gatherings will be reduced to 25 people and outdoor gatherings will have a capacity of 250 people. The order also requires companies statewide to have their employees telework to the extent possible. The new order takes effect Thursday.
Gyms and fitness centers can remain open but must prioritize outdoor fitness.
Pennsylvania’s recently elevated statewide virus numbers have been driven in large part by increased spread in the Pittsburgh area, where officials attribute the spike to younger people and others congregating in bars and restaurants.
Allegheny County, which has already imposed temporary restrictions on restaurants and bars, reported 246 additional infections on Wednesday from tests performed between June 30 and July 14. Infections numbers have also been up in counties ringing Allegheny.
The health department reported 994 new positive virus cases Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to more than 97,000. The health department reported the results of nearly 29,000 virus tests, the highest one-day total since the beginning of the pandemic.
Health officials also reported 26 new deaths.
The Philadelphia school district, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that it plans to resume limited in-person instruction in the fall, with most students in class just two days per week and learning remotely the other three.
Earlier this month, Wolf issued a mandatory mask order throughout the state requiring face coverings whenever leaving your home.
The new restrictions, coming more than two months after Pennsylvania began reopening its virus-battered economy, risked major backlash in large swaths of the state where COVID-19 has largely been kept at bay.
Republican lawmakers have staunchly opposed most of Wolf’s restrictions since mid-April and accused him of behaving like a dictator, abusing his power and failing to consult lawmakers on his plans.
“The irreversible impact of his countless, confusing orders cannot be overstated,” House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, said in a written statement. “Gov. Wolf’s decision today will close the doors of some small businesses forever and devastate the livelihoods of so many Pennsylvanians who were just beginning to feel hopeful for the future.”
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and the National Federation of Independent Business questioned why the order couldn’t be tailored to areas seeing an outbreak, or why stronger enforcement couldn’t be wielded against rule-breakers.
But Wolf warned that a “new surge is in the offing” that could eclipse what happened in the spring, when the virus killed thousands and sickened tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians.
He also cited out-of-state travel to virus hot spots, and blamed states in the South and West for “not committing to the things they should’ve done to keep this virus from spreading.”
“We did everything we should’ve done, we were responsible, and yet we’re paying the price right now,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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