PA projector is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive / The Patriot-News, TribLIVE / Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletters.
HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf is suspending indoor dining for three weeks starting Saturday as part of a renewed effort to slow the wave of coronavirus in Pennsylvania.
On Thursday, Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine also announced a three-week hiatus from extracurricular activities and in-person sports at public and private schools. College and professional activities such as the NFL may continue, although spectators are prohibited.
“Every time we do one of the little things that make us safer, we are working together for that brighter future,” Wolf said at a 4 p.m. press conference.
Indoor events will be limited to a maximum of 10 people and outdoor events to a maximum of 50 people, until at least January 4. Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other places of worship are excluded.
Entertainment facilities including movie theaters, concert halls, casinos and clubs are to close temporarily, while indoor retail stores are to limit capacity to 50% “except within the limit of existing orders to a limit of. lower capacity ”. Gyms and fitness facilities have also been ordered to suspend indoor operations for three weeks.
The restrictions, which are due to expire at 8 a.m. on Jan.4, come as new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania continue to break records and hospitals struggle to stay ahead of increased admissions and d ‘a possible staff crisis. Wolf is currently in home isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.
The mitigation efforts announced Thursday do not include a general stay-at-home order like the measures taken at the start of the pandemic this spring. Rather, they aim to prevent people from congregating and spending long periods of time in and near each other.
Levine and Wolf were joined by a panel of public health professionals and physicians who spoke about how healthcare systems are overwhelmed with patients and how vital it is to keep up with social mitigation efforts.
“As we all know, heart attacks, strokes, gastrointestinal bleeding – those kinds of things still happen in our communities. And we, as hospitals and health systems, always have a responsibility to be available for this kind of care, ”said Dr Jaewon Ryu, chairman of Geisinger Health System. “COVID has frankly extended our ability to do this. “
The state health ministry on Thursday reported 11,972 new cases of the coronavirus. This morning, hospitals in the southwestern and south-central regions of the state reported that they anticipated staff shortages over the next week, according to state data.
Spotlight PA first learned of the details of mitigation efforts from a source on Wednesday. When asked to comment, Wolf spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger said some information was inaccurate but would not be detailed. When he again presented details of the plan confirmed by other sources on Thursday, Kensinger again questioned Spotlight PA’s information.
The Spotlight PA report shown to Kensinger matched what Wolf and Levine officially disclosed on Thursday.
House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R., Center) said he recognized the state was “facing a serious resurgence of COVID-19″ but asked Wolf not to use his ” executive order pen to devastate lives and livelihoods. Instead, he begged the Pennsylvanians to follow the mitigation efforts.
“Canceling Christmas is not the solution,” Benninghoff said in a statement Thursday, before the plan was announced.
Thursday’s announcement was foreshadowed by a series of notices and orders ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday aimed at limiting the size of gatherings and keeping people at home.
The administration banned the sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants overnight the day before Thanksgiving, and reduced capacity limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings. The Nov. 23 orders also created staffing, bed capacity and admissions measures that, if followed, would force hospitals to limit elective procedures in order to free up resources to treat a wave of COVID patients. -19.
The state’s stay-at-home notice, also released on November 23, remains in place, along with an order requiring residents to wear a mask whenever they leave the house.
“The hope was that the things I had put in place would be enough to get us through the Thanksgiving season,” Wolf said Thursday. “It didn’t work out as well as I hoped.”
In Philadelphia, indoor gyms, casinos and entertainment venues have been closed and indoor dining has been banned since November 20. Allegheny County officials did not issue local restrictions this week and insisted state or region-wide mitigation guidelines were needed to stop the spread of the virus .
“A mitigation strategy only in Allegheny County will not prevent people from crossing county borders to go to work, to eat out, to attend weddings, funerals, to visit friends and family or attend sporting events, ”Allegheny County Health Director Debra Bogen said Wednesday.
Temporarily banning indoor dining is most likely to have the greatest impact on room workers like waiters and bartenders, who can only be employed if an establishment is doing enough internal business. John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Accommodation Association, said Wednesday.
The industry has been struggling since the start of the pandemic, when shutdown orders forced them to close their doors. Take-out and take-out cocktails helped supplement sales, but without federal relief, many businesses are unlikely to survive the pandemic, Longstreet said.
“It is a desperate situation,” he said, pointing to the results of an investigation conducted by the National Restaurant Association in November.
About 37% of the 6,000 respondents who participated nationally said they did not expect to be in business in six months without additional government assistance.
State lawmakers in May approved the use of $ 2.6 billion in federal stimulus funds for a variety of purposes, including relief for counties, small businesses and long-term care facilities, where thousands residents have died since the start of the pandemic. In November, they used the remaining $ 1.3 billion of CARES law flexible funding to support the state budget, rather than creating a grant or loan program for struggling industries, including restaurants. and bars.
As of Thursday afternoon, neighboring states had yet to put in place tougher restrictions before the December break.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said earlier this week that new plans could be released on Friday. On Monday, he said indoor restaurants would be closed in New York and reduced to 25% capacity in the rest of the state if hospitalizations did not stabilize.
Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio said Monday he would extend the 10 p.m. curfew to 5 a.m., which was due to expire Thursday. Businesses, bars and restaurants were allowed to operate with some restrictions on the size of gatherings.
100% ESSENTIAL: PA projector based on foundation funding and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results. Become a member today on projectorpa.org/donate.