Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday ramped up the state’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts a day after York County smashed its record for the increases in new cases.
After the state Health Department on Sunday reported 559 new cases in York County, a number that more than doubled the previous record set Nov. 17, Wolf announced a slew of new guidelines for schools and public gatherings.
“If our health care system is compromised, it isn’t only COVID-19 patients who will suffer,” Wolf said. “If we run out of hospital beds, or if hospital staff are over-worked to the breaking point, care will suffer for every patient – including those who need emergency care for illnesses, accidents or chronic conditions unrelated to COVID-19.”
Alcohol sales at bars, restaurants and catered events must end at 5 p.m. Wednesday, under the new orders.
The move pairs with efforts among local officials to convince people to avoid large gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday, which Barbara Kovacs, director of the York City Health Bureau, said was an unfortunate but necessary decision.
“I think people need to make that hard decision,” Kovacs said.
The governor’s new orders mandate that school districts in 59 counties with “substantial transmission levels,” which includes York County, must for the next two weeks either certify that they can comply with existing safety measures or move to online learning.
The state is also requiring businesses to conduct telework “unless impossible,” requiring deep-cleaning, social distancing and masking if business is conducted in-person.
Online sales and curbside pickups are encouraged, Wolf said.
Wolf’s administration also updated gathering restrictions for indoor events:
- Maximum occupancy of 2,000: 10%
- Maximum occupancy of 10,000: 5%
- Maximum occupancy of more than 10,000: No events over 500 people
Wolf also imposed new restrictions on outdoor events, which limit total attendance to as little as 5% of maximum capacity in some instances, and bars any events from hosting more than 2,500 people.
Some of the new restrictions immediately struck a nerve with bar and restaurant owners in the state.
The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, for example, said the Wolf administration’s announcement “comes as no surprise.”
“What we don’t get is why there has been no significant financial help to assist our small business taverns and licensed restaurants survive. As this crisis continues, more small businesses are closing while their employees lose jobs,” wrote executive director Chuck Moran in a news release.
Restaurant and tavern owners had hoped to receive additional aid from the federal CARES Act, but state lawmakers instead have earmarked the remaining $1.3 million to plug a hole in the state budget.
State Health Department spokesperson Nate Wardle on Monday afternoon confirmed Sunday’s unusually high daily increase in York County, noting that only nine occurred in long-term care facilities.
York County’s infection rate was 10.9% between Nov. 13 and Thursday, according to the most recent data made available by the state Health Department. That infection rate was the highest on record.
It is more than a one percentage point increase from the previous seven-day period, when the infection rate was 9.5%.
The infection rate, paired with a record-breaking 529 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days, has led local officials to advise that residents stay home for the holidays rather than travel.
As of Monday, York County had 9,755 COVID-19 cases and 235 deaths linked to the disease.
Statewide, there were 314,401 cases and 9,870 deaths,.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.