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HARRISBURG — As coronavirus cases continue to surge in parts of the state, Gov. Tom Wolf Wednesday afternoon announced new, tighter restrictions on bars and restaurants.
“Medical experts looking at our current trajectory are projecting that a new surge is in the offing, and that what we’re seeing right now could be even worse than what we saw before,” Wolf said, in reference to the peak of the pandemic in April.
To help prevent a similar rise, Wolf announced that as of Thursday bars and restaurants statewide will only be allowed to seat people indoors at up to 25 percent of their capacity (currently, inside seating is allowed at up to 50 percent capacity). Outdoor dining restrictions are not affected by the announcement.
Patrons will only be permitted to buy alcohol if they are also buying food, and bar seating will also be temporarily banned as of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, July 16.
Qualifying establishments may continue to sell cocktails to-go under the new restrictions.
However, nightclubs must close, Wolf announced.
Additionally, indoor events and gatherings of more than 25 people are now prohibited.
The maximum number of people who may attend outdoor events remains unchanged at 250.
In his order and in the news release, Wolf also highlighted the role enforcement should play in curbing the surge in the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.
He said he has directed all Commonwealth agencies involved in the licensing or inspection of any of the facilities impacted by the order “to increase their enforcement efforts to ensure compliance with these critical mitigation measures.”
“All local officials currently involved or able to be involved in the Commonwealth’s enforcement efforts are called upon to enforce these critical mitigation measures,” Wolf’s order states.
The rollbacks on Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 reopening are the first Wolf’s administration has announced since it began reopening counties in three phases in May, and are being driven by several different catalysts, he said Wednesday.
“Some Pennsylvanians have been ignoring the mask-wearing requirements and social distancing when they’re visiting Pennsylvania bars and restaurants,” he said, adding that out-of-state travel and “a lack of national coordination” are also contributing to the spike.
All 67 counties in Pennsylvania are currently in the least-restrictive green phase of the Wolf administration’s reopening and under an order by state health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, which requires face masks to be worn in retail and other commercial spaces as well as anywhere outside where maintaining a social distance of six feet is not possible.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported nearly 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, and the state has confirmed nearly 100,000 cases of the disease since the pandemic began in March.
To date, COVID-19 has claimed nearly 7,000 residents’ lives, per the department’s data.
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