New COVID-19 Mitigation Efforts Announced for Pennsylvania. Here’s What to Know.

Stricter COVID-19 mitigation efforts, announced Thursday by Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, aim to put Pennsylvania “on pause” for the next three weeks.

The limited-time mitigation orders place restrictions on in-person dining and alcohol sales, gatherings and events, businesses and K-12 sports. Wolf — who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week — and Levine announced the new measures during a virtual press conference Thursday.

“This is a bridge to that better future we all know that we can get to in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “We know that COVID-19 thrives in places where people gather together. Therefore, these mitigation measures target high-risk environments and activities and aim to reduce the spread of this devastating virus.”

In the last two days, Pennsylvania has reported the highest number of COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

“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,” Levine said. “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.”

The new order takes effect 12:01 a.m. on Saturday and will remain in effect until 8 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2021.

“We will be saving lives, but we have to do it together,” Wolf said.

Here’s what to know about the guidelines:

In-person dining and alcohol sales

  • All in-person indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food service establishments is prohibited.
  • Outdoor dining, take-out food service and take-out alcohol sales are permitted and may continue.

Gatherings and events

  • Indoor gatherings and events of more than 10 people are prohibited.
  • Religious services and worship are specifically excluded from the limitations set forth above during religious services, but faith leaders are “strongly encouraged” to find alternative ways to gather.
  • Outdoor gatherings and events of more than 50 people are prohibited.

Business closures, capacity limits

  • All in-person businesses may operate at up to 50% of the maximum capacity stated on the applicable certificate of occupancy, except as limited by existing orders to a smaller capacity limit.
  • In-person businesses in the entertainment industry — theaters, concert venues, museums, movie theaters, arcades, casinos, bowling alleys and private clubs — are prohibited from operating.

Gyms and fitness facilities

  • Indoor operations at gyms and fitness facilities are prohibited, but outdoor facilities and classes may continue.
  • All participants are required to wear a mask and social distance during outdoor activities.

K-12 sports, extracurricular activities

  • Voluntary, school-sponsored activities are suspended, but participants may gather virtually. This includes, but is not limited to, attendance at or participation in activities such musical ensembles, school plays, student council, clubs and school dances.
  • All K-12 sports are paused. This includes all competition at public, nonpublic and private schools as well as all club, travel, recreational, intermural and intramural sports.
  • The Pennsylvania Principals Association is recommending a delay to the start of the winter sports season. The surge in cases among school-age children increases the risk that asymptomatic participants will spread the virus at a game or practice, in the locker room, while traveling to and from events, or at team meals, parties or other gatherings.

Professional, collegiate sports

  • Professional and collegiate sports activities may continue in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health.
  • Spectators are prohibited from attending events.
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