Wolf Announces New Targeted Mitigation Measures
Governor, health department implore Pennsylvanians to take precaution as coronavirus cases mount
Erieites are going to have to put their annual Thanksgiving Eve appointments with the Plymouth on the rocks. Last call for alcohol at all Pennsylvania bars and restaurants will be at 5 p.m. Wednesday, following an announcement yesterday from Pa. Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.
That's just one of several targeted mitigation measures the Pennsylvania Department of Health is putting in place as COVID-19 numbers continue to spiral out of control, with data modeling projecting 22,000 new cases per day in December if no action is taken. As it stands, COVID-related deaths have quadrupled in the past week compared to the week previous, and infection rates are seven times what they were in September.
"As our hospitals and health care system are facing greater strain, we need to redouble our efforts to keep people safe," Gov. Wolf said. "If our healthcare 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 overworked 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."
Levine fears that the death toll could push past 32,000 Pennslyvanians by late February if precautions are ignored. That is why she has issued "a series of advisories and orders intended to help stop the spread during this critical time, to protect our hospitals, our health care workers and the lives of our fellow Pennsylvanians."
- Venues with a maximum occupancy of 2,000 persons or fewer: 10 percent of maximum occupancy
- Between 2,001 and 10,000: 5 percent of max occupancy
- 10,000 or more: no more than 500 people
- Venues with a maximum occupancy of 2,000 persons or fewer: 15 percent of maximum occupancy
- Between 2,001 and 10,000: 10 percent of max occupancy
- 10,000 or more: 5 percent or up to 2,500 people (whichever is smaller)
Private gatherings mingling individuals from different households are not advised.
All public schools from pre-K to 12th grade in the 63 counties experiencing substantial transmission levels (positive test rates of 5 percent or more) must:
- Comply with updated protocols in the event of a positive COVID-19 case identified on school grounds, namely transitioning exclusively to remote learning.
- Have a chief administrator or governing chairperson sign an attestation acknowledging they have either already transitioned to remote learning OR will transition if they are still holding in-person instruction and a positive case is identified, by Monday, Nov. 30 at 5 p.m.
- Understand that if they do not comply, in-person learning and extracurricular activities will be suspended so long as transmission rates are substantial.
Telework is strongly advised in all instances except where impossible. Online sales and curbside pickup continue to be encouraged. The most significant update here is liability protection "for all businesses that maintain in-person operations and are open to the public," in aims of helping business owners enforce public masking orders.
Both existing orders and those announced Monday were designated enforceable by State Police, counties, and municipalities, in regard to:
- Out-of-state travel
- Mask wearing
- Business safety
- Restaurant mitigation
- Gathering limits
- School attestation and mitigation
Citations and fines may be levied for offenses, and regularly actions may be taken for repeat violations. Localities can issue their own orders, ordinances, or directives to protect public health and safety so long as they are stricter than those already issued by the state. Individual fines may range between $25 and $300.
Non-compliant businesses will receive a warning for an initial customer or employee complaint, and may be referred to the State Police or regulatory agencies for repeated complaints, with penalties that may include additional fines and potential closure.