Pennsylvania bars and restaurants were the focus of targeted coronavirus mitigation restrictions put in place by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration nearly a month ago, and they likely won’t be going away anytime soon.
That’s because the state’s goal is to have students of all ages return to at least some in-person learning this fall, and keeping coronavirus case counts from spiking is the only way that can happen, Wolf said.
The governor said at a news conference in York Thursday the restrictions on restaurants and bars have made a difference.
Owners and employees in the foodservice industry, along with their customers, have demanded changes, modifications, or an outright reversal of Wolf’s orders.
Last month, the governor ordered indoor capacity at bars and restaurants to be limited to 25 percent, down from 50 percent. His order prohibited bar service and the sale of alcohol for on-premise consumption without the purchase of a prepared meal.
Still, the calls of restaurants have fallen on deaf ears since July 20, however, and there appears to be no changes on the horizon, especially after Pennsylvania reported its highest number of new coronavirus cases, 991, since late July on Thursday.
“All of Pennsylvania has had a resurgence,” Wolf said. “That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing right now. We were in a pretty good place. I mean we were down to 300, 400, new cases a day. And as the Secretary [Levine] said, we’re now on 800 to 900 cases a day, and we’ve been higher than that.
“There’s been a resurgence this summer, so I took steps, like with restaurants and bars to restrict access to those things, and they have had an impact,” Wolf said. “We are actually having fewer and fewer cases, but all of this was caused because Pennsylvania did have an upsurge, and I think we need to be concerned about this.”
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Wolf was also asked extensively about his recommendation to postpone fall high school and youth sports until at least January 2021. He said that any and all orders or recommendations put in place are to help ensure not only the public’s health and safety but also that school can start on time.
“I think what we ought to be focused on is trying to get our kids back to learning and to get an education, and anything we do that interferes with that, we got to be careful about doing,” Wolf said. “And so, transporting people for whatever reason, across county boundaries to congregate together for whatever reason, to the extent we do those things, whether it’s a directive or a recommendation, to the extent we do those things, we make it harder and harder for kids to get an education.
“We need them to be in school, we need them to get back to learning, and every time we do something that interferes with that, we’re doing all of us in Pennsylvania a disservice. So that’s where that comes from.”
Schools across the state are preparing for the new year in different ways. Some school systems, including Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, will start the year remotely. Many districts are employing hybrid approaches, with in-person instruction on some days and remote learning on others.