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Chester County Press

Wolf announces new statewide mitigation efforts, now underway

12/16/2020 11:02AM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

On Dec. 10, as a measure to potentially slow down the surging rate of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced the start of a three-week mitigation effort in the state that will enact severe restrictions on businesses, school activities and public events.

The orders went into effect on Dec. 12, and will remain until Jan. 4, 2021.

The mitigation efforts have placed restrictions on:

In-Person Dining and Alcohol Sales

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 and may continue for the duration of the time period.

Indoor Gatherings and Events

Indoor gatherings and events of more than 10 persons are prohibited. Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other places of congregate worship are excluded from the limitations during religious services, but are strongly encouraged to find alternative methods for in-person worship.

Outdoor Gatherings and Events

Outdoor gatherings and events of more than 50 persons are prohibited. According to a recent CDC study, medium-sized outdoor gatherings carry a higher risk of COVID-19 spread, even with social distancing. CDC noted that the more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and COVID-19 spreading, and that the higher the level of community transmission in the area that the gathering is being held, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spreading during a gathering.

Capacity Limits for Businesses

All in-person businesses serving the public may only operate at up to 50 percent of the maximum capacity stated on the applicable certificate of occupancy, except as limited by existing orders to a smaller capacity limit.

Gyms and Fitness Facilities

Indoor operations at gyms and fitness facilities are prohibited. Outdoor facilities and outdoor classes can continue, but all participants must wear face coverings.

Entertainment Industry

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 and private clubs are prohibited from operation.

In-Person Extracurricular School Activities

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 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 suspended.

“We know that COVID-19 thrives in places where people gather together,” Gov. Wolf said. “Therefore, these mitigation measures target high-risk environments and activities and aim to reduce the spread of this devastating virus.”

The state’s 24-day mitigation effort dovetails with Dec. 10 supplied by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, that confirmed that there were 11,972 additional positive cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth in the past one-week reporting period, bringing the statewide total to 457,289 – and 5,852 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. By the following day – Dec. 11 – that number of positive cases had risen to 12,745, bringing the statewide total to 470,034.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of number of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 4,400 since the end of September.

As of Dec. 9, the state reported 248 new deaths resulting from COVID-19 that increased the total number of reported deaths to 12,010, of which 7,249 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

Dr. Levine said that the virus has also had a significant effect on another population.

“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.”

Despite receiving criticism that the three-week mitigation efforts enacted by the state could prove futile against these discouraging numbers, Wolf said they are being undertaken to achieve a step-by-step mission.

“With these measures in place, we hope to accomplish three goals: First, stop the devastating spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth,” Wolf said. “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.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].