Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday tightened restrictions once again on certain businesses and on indoor gatherings as we head into the height of the holiday season.
In a virtual press conference, Wolf said that an unrelenting surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths in PA forced him to re-impose restrictions not seen since the initial statewide lockdown in March and April.
“The work we do now to slow the spread of COVID-19 is not only crucial to keeping our fellow Pennsylvanians safe and healthy,” said Wolf, who recently tested positive for the virus. “It will help all of us get back to normal, and back to all of the things we’ve missed, faster.”
The new restrictions begin at midnight on Saturday and are slated to last more than three weeks, through Jan. 4.
The newly imposed restrictions include a ban on indoor restaurant dining and the closure of gyms and entertainment venues, such as theaters, museums and casinos. Outdoor and takeout dining and takeout alcohol sales will still be allowed.
Most other businesses may remain open at 50% of maximum capacity.
In addition, indoor gatherings and events of more than 10 people are prohibited. Religious observances are an exception, though religious groups are “strongly encouraged” to find alternatives to indoor worship. Outdoor gatherings and events are limited to a maximum of 50 people.
All K-12 and youth sports will be suspended, though collegiate sports can continue according to CDC and health department guidelines.
“With these measures in place, we hope to accomplish three goals: First, stop the devastating spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth. Second, keep our hospitals and health care workers from becoming overwhelmed. And third, help Pennsylvanians get through the holiday season—and closer to a widely available vaccine—as safely as possible,” Wolf said. “This is a bridge to a better future in Pennsylvania.”
Coronavirus cases have been growing steadily since late September and now are at their highest levels since the pandemic began in PA in March.
Just today, the commonwealth announced 11,972 new cases and 248 newly reported fatalities from the disease. This brings total diagnoses to 457,289 and deaths to 12,010 in PA.
“Each of the last two days we have reported the highest number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic,” Dr. Rachel Levine said.
The testing positivity rate has also surged over the past two months and now stands at 14.4% over the past week. It was below 5% through much of the summer, but has risen steadily since. COVID-19 hospitalizations have also soared and now stand at 5,852 patients.
“We know that COVID-19 thrives in places where people gather together,” Wolf said. “Therefore, these mitigation measures target high-risk environments and activities and aim to reduce the spread of this devastating virus.”