PA Bars Restaurants and More Face Targeted Restrictions
Gov. Tom Wolf announced further limitations in the wake of rising COVID-19 numbers
"We don't want to become Florida. We don't want to become Texas. We don't want to become Arizona. We have got to act now," explained Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.
On Wednesday, July 15, Wolf held a press conference announcing restrictions on certain businesses in the wake of rising COVID-19 numbers.
In what the governor's office refers to as "targeted mitigation efforts," steps are being taken to prevent future spikes of COVID-19. Affected primarily by these actions will be bars, restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, and any business that requires large gatherings. These restrictions were ordered to go into effect Thursday, July 16 at 12:01 a.m. – eight and a half hours after the announcement was made.
"During the past week, we have seen an unsettling climb a new COVID-19 cases throughout Pennsylvania," Wolf began, noting that the state's peak of new cases came in April. That peak was around 2,000 new cases per day. As it stands, Pennsylvania has averaged over 806 new cases a day over the last week. Prior to Wolf's announcement, the last three days have seen totals over between 900 and 1,000, with Allegheny County alone accounting for 28.6% of these new cases. Experiencing a dip in the curve during mid-June, daily case numbers hovered around 400. At the time of Wolf's announcement, the last day Pennsylvania saw a daily case count in quadruple digits was Tuesday, May 9, with over 1,300 cases reported.
Wolf cited three key factors for this spike, especially in the southwest region of the state: Individuals not wearing masks, out-of-state travel, and lack of national coordination.
"We didn't know as much about the virus then as we do now," Wolf said, of early efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. "So we had to take a broad approach, sort of a blunt instrument approach to eliminating points of contact. But with our current rapid increases, we need to act again, but this time, we have more knowledge and we can act in a more focused manner."
He later went on to say that "we know that the virus appears to be primarily airborne. So we're placing more limits on indoor activities. We know that the virus spreads rapidly in crowds. So we're limiting crowd sizes in situations where people are likely to gather close together such as bars."
The language of Wolf's order, in full is:
Bars and Restaurants
All businesses in the retail food services industry, including restaurants, wineries, breweries, private clubs, and bars, are permitted to provide take-out and delivery sales of food, as well as dine-in service in both indoor and outdoor seating areas so long as they strictly adhere to the requirements of the guidance, as required by the order, including:
Prohibition from conducting operations unless the facility offers sit-down, dine-in meals or is serving take-out sales of alcoholic beverages. All service must be at a table or booth; bar service is prohibited.
Alcohol only can be served for on-premises consumption when in the same transaction as a meal.
Take-out sales of alcohol for the purposes of off-site consumption are permitted subject to any limitations or restrictions imposed by Pennsylvania law.
Non-bar seating in outdoor areas (i.e. tables or counter seats that do not line up to a bar or food service area) may be used for customer seating.
Social distancing, masking, and other mitigation measures must be employed to protect workers and patrons.
Occupancy is limited to 25 percent of stated fire-code maximum occupancy for indoor dining, or 25 persons for a discrete indoor event or gathering in a restaurant. The maximum occupancy limit includes staff.
All nightclubs, as defined by the Clean Indoor Air Act, 35 P.S. § 637.2, are prohibited from conducting operations.
Other events and gatherings
Events and gatherings must adhere to these gathering limitations:
Indoor events and gatherings of more than 25 persons are prohibited.
Outdoor events and gatherings of more than 250 persons are prohibited.
The maximum occupancy limit includes staff.
Unless not possible, all businesses are required to conduct their operations in whole or in part remotely through individual teleworking of their employees in the jurisdiction or jurisdictions in which they do business.
Where telework is not possible, employees may conduct in-person business operations, provided that the businesses fully comply with all substantive aspects of the business safety order, the worker safety order, and the masking order.
Gyms and fitness facilities
All gyms and fitness facilities, while permitted to continue indoor operations, are directed to prioritize outdoor physical fitness activities. All activities must follow masking requirements as provided by the July 1 order, and must provide for social distancing requirements of persons being at least 6 feet apart, as well as being limited by any limitations related to gatherings.
"The actions the governor and I are taking today are designed to be surgical and thus precise to prevent from repeating the cycle we saw in the spring," explained PA Secretary of Health Dr. Levine. "We have gained a great deal of experience since the start of this outbreak and have learned from best practices from other states as well as counties right here in Pennsylvania."