HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania officials are issuing new orders and advisories they are calling "additional safeguards" as they work to slow the spread of coronavirus across the state.
Gov. Tom Wolf made the announcement alongside Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine during a press conference on Monday afternoon.
Under the new order, bars and restaurants must end alcohol sales for on-site consumption at 5 p.m. Wednesday through 8 a.m. Thursday morning.
Large gatherings and event capacities have also been reduced under the new guidelines. Indoor events with more than 500 persons are prohibited, while outdoor events with more than 2,500 persons are also prohibited.
The state released the below scale for measuring maximum capacity for indoor events.
- 0-2,000 people -10% of Maximum Occupancy
- 2,001 - 10,000 people - 5% of Maximum Occupancy
- Over 10,000 people - No events over 500 people
They have also shared the following scale for calculating outdoor event capacities.
- 0-2,000 people -15% of Maximum Occupancy
- 2,001 - 10,000 people -10% of Maximum Occupancy
- Over 10,000 people -5% of Maximum Occupancy up to 2,500 people
Schools across the state were included in the new safeguards and are required to implement strict safety measures. Those measures require Pre-K to 12 public schools in counties that have been in the 'substantial transmission' level for at least two consecutive weeks to commit to safety measures to ensure the safety and well-being of students and educators. If they choose not to, they must move to fully remote learning without all extra-curricular activities.
As of Friday 59 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties have met the 'substantial transmission' level for at least two consecutive weeks.
By 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, school administrators and the governing body president/chair must sign a form stating they have either transitioned to fully remote learning or are complying with the orders if they are conducting any in-person instruction while in the 'substantial' range of transmission.
Schools that do not sign the form or fail to comply are required to provide only fully remote learning and suspend all extracurricular activities as long as the county remains in the substantial transmission level.
The Democratic governor also reissued orders intended to protect businesses, employees, and customers. The orders include reiterating cleaning and social distancing requirements, mandatory telework requirements unless impossible, and other safety measures. Online sales and curbside pickup for all shopping are encouraged.
To help with the enforcement of mask requirements, Wolf's administration has introduced liability protection for all businesses that maintain in-person operations and are open to the public.
Wolf says enforcement of existing health orders will be stepped up and has issued a stay-at-home advisory, urging people to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to leave. Dr. Levine says the advisory is not a shutdown order.
Indoor dining capacity remains at 25% unless the establishment has self-certified that they are following all of the state's coronavirus guidelines - in which case capacity is 50%.
Retail establishments are permitted to continue operating at 75% capacity while businesses like gyms, barbershops, salons, and other personal care establishments can continue to operate at 50% capacity.
Dr. Levine advised against gatherings with people who are not part of your immediate household.
"Having someone in your home who does not live with you – not part of your household – even if they are part of your extended family, or your close friends, it puts your entire household at risk," Dr. Levine said Monday.
The announcement comes less than a week after Dr. Levine announced new measures aimed at mitigating the spread of coronavirus that included testing requirements for interstate travel and tightened mask orders.
Like the rest of the nation, Pennsylvania has seen coronavirus infections explode in recent weeks. The state has been reporting around 5,000 new infections per day, with spikes in hospitalizations and deaths as well. On Saturday the state reported 4,762 cases and 7,075 on Sunday.
There are currently 3,379 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide. Of that number, 775 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19.
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“As our hospitals and health care system are facing greater strain, we need to redouble our efforts to keep people safe,” Gov. Wolf said Monday. “If our health care system is compromised, it isn’t only COVID-19 patients who will suffer. If we run out of hospital beds, or if hospital staff are over-worked to the breaking point, care will suffer for every patient – including those who need emergency care for illnesses, accidents, or chronic conditions unrelated to COVID-19.”
To address the potential issues that come with increased hospitalizations, Levine issued a memorandum last week to acute-care hospitals outlining expectations to care for Pennsylvanians who need care during the pandemic.
The memo calls on those hospitals to work through the established health-care coalitions to prepare for how they will support one another in the event that a hospital becomes overwhelmed.
Hospitals are also being asked to work to move up elective procedures, where necessary, and prepare to suspend them, should the health-care system become strained.
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