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Wolf reduces group sizes, restaurant capacity

Citing an “alarming escalation” in COVID-19 case counts across the Commonwealth, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered mitigation efforts that target bars and restaurants and reduce indoor gatherings down to a maximum of 25 people.

“During the past week, we have seen an unsettling climb in new COVID-19 cases throughout Pennsylvania,” Wolf said on Wednesday afternoon, suggesting a “new surge is in the offing.”

“We need to act again,” he added. With more knowledge, he said, the state “can act in a more focused manner.”

So Wolf said he would sign an order on Wednesday implementing the following mitigation strategies: Restaurants must reduce indoor capacity to 25 percent, on-premises alcohol consumption is limited to meals only, telework must be implemented wherever possible and the limit on indoor gatherings has been reduced to just 25 people.

Any establishment that serves alcohol — but does not also serve food — will be required to close.

Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said this would not apply to religious institutions.

He explained that there are “three catalysts” driving the current case increases: People not practicing social distancing and mask wearing in bars and restaurants, out-of-state travel and a lack of national coordination.

The lack of national coordination, he said, “has resulted in states in the south and southwest not committing to the things they should have done. This virus does not respect state boundaries. We are paying the price in different ways for what states in other places have done.

“We did everything we should have done,” Wolf said, articulating that he has used information gathered since the start of the pandemic to craft these mitigation efforts.

“This is the virus speaking,” he said.

Levine announced 994 new cases, bringing the state-wide total to over $97,000.

She specifically highlighted increases observed in the 19-24 and 25-49 age groups.

“By acting now and making these specific and targeted mitigation efforts… we can get ahead of the curve,” Levine said, so the “economy will survive while still saving lives.”

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