State shutdowns take effect

Gov. Tom Wolf

Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine implored Pennsylvanians to take the next few weeks and stand united against the coronavirus by adhering to existing mitigation orders and stricter efforts announced last week.

“Today I am announcing additional, temporary COVID-19 protective mitigation measures in the commonwealth,” Wolf said on Dec. 10. “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. This is a bridge to a better future in Pennsylvania.”

Wolf tested positive for the virus on Dec. 8.

The new, limited-time mitigation orders took effect at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 12, and remain in effect until 8 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2021.

“Each of the last two days we have reported the highest number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic,” Levine said. “In the past week, we have reported close to 1,100 new deaths from COVID-19 across Pennsylvania. The virus continues to strain our health care systems and the dramatic rise in cases among all age groups, including among school-age children, is alarming. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 37,500 cases among children age 5 to 18, yet 9,500 of those cases occurred in the past two weeks.”

Wolf and Levine believe limiting gatherings, reducing occupancy and temporarily suspending some activities, among other efforts, are vital to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Limited-time mitigation efforts announced Thursday include:

• All in-person indoor dining at businesses in the retail food services industry, including bars, restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, social clubs and private catered events, is prohibited.

• Outdoor dining, take-out food service and take-out alcohol sales are permitted.

• Indoor gatherings and events of more than 10 persons are prohibited.

• Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other places of congregate worship are specifically excluded from the limitations.

• Outdoor gatherings and events of more than 50 persons are prohibited.

• All in-person businesses serving the public may operate at only up to 50 percent of the maximum capacity stated on the applicable certificate of occupancy.

• Indoor operations at gyms and fitness facilities are prohibited.

• Outdoor facilities and outdoor classes can continue, but all participants must wear face coverings and practice physical distancing requirements.

• All in-person businesses in the entertainment industry serving the public within a building or indoor defined area, including theaters, concert venues, museums, movie theaters, arcades, casinos, bowling alleys, private clubs and all other similar entertainment, recreational or social facilities, are prohibited from operation.

• Voluntary activities sponsored or approved by a school entity’s governing body or administration are suspended, but these extracurricular activities may be held virtually. This includes attendance at or participation in activities such as musical ensembles, school plays, student council, clubs and school dances.

• All sports at K-12 public schools, nonpublic schools, private schools and club, travel, recreational and intramural sports are paused.

• Professional or collegiate sports activities may continue in accordance with guidance from the CDC and the Department of Health.

• Spectators may not attend such sports activities in person.

“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.”

Wolf said the work done now to slow the spread of COVID-19 will keep Pennsylvanians safe and healthy and will help speed up the time that everyone can get back to normal and to all of the things they’ve missed.

“And it means more Pennsylvanians will be alive to celebrate that brighter future. This year, we show our love for our families and friends by celebrating safely and protecting one another,” he said.

Mayor Jim Kenney had already announced, effective Nov. 20, a ban on indoor dining and the closing of gyms, theaters, casinos, arcades, bowling alleys, museums and libraries. Also, high schools and colleges can offer instruction only online. ••