Wolf administration announces targeted mitigation efforts in response to recent COVID case increases

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed new orders on Wednesday for targeted mitigation efforts in response to the recent rise in COVID cases, primarily in southwest Pennsylvania, but also in other counties in the state, influencing the decision for statewide mitigation efforts for bars and restaurants, gatherings and telework. The new orders take effect at 12:01 a.m. today.

"During the past week, we have seen an unsettling climb in new COVID-19 cases," 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."

The mitigation efforts included in the new orders from Gov. Wolf and Dr. Levine include:

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.

Nightclubs: 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; and the maximum occupancy limit includes staff.

Teleworking: 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 six feet apart, as well as being limited by any limitations related to gatherings.

Enforcement: Businesses and individuals in violation of these orders, issued pursuant to the authority granted to the Governor and the Secretary of Health under the law, including the Pennsylvania Disease Control and Prevention Law, could be subject to fines, business closure or other applicable enforcement measures.

For more on Pennsylvania's COVID situation, see Thursday's print edition of The Spirit.

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