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Our opinion: Fact don’t back Wolf on bars

Bars and restaurants were one of three factors Gov. Tom Wolf singled out two weeks ago when he announced additional restrictions statewide.

Pennsylvania residents weren’t wearing masks and social distancing while at bars and restaurants, too many people were traveling into and out of the state, and a lack of national coordination were all coalescing into increased COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania.

If that was true, though, wouldn’t Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement checks have turned up a slew of bars and restaurants that were disregarding the state’s COVID-19 restrictions?

The state conducted 1,876 enforcement checks statewide July 20-21, issuing 47 warnings related to COVID-19 mitigation efforts and a whopping one notice of violation from the Allentown enforcement office.

For all of the hand-wringing over people having too much fun in bars and spreading COVID-19 in their frivolity, a whopping 2.5% of bars and restaurants were warned with one business receiving a violation notice.

Checks July 17-19 yielded similar results — 1,524 businesses checked, 44 warnings (2.88%) and no notices of violation. So, over four days, 3,400 businesses were checked and 2.67% received a warning.

If so many businesses are following the rules, then why the additional limitations on bars and restaurants? Operating at half capacity was difficult enough for the bar and restaurant industry.

Operating at 25% capacity or as take-out only enterprises will result in many restaurants simply closing up shop.

We had thought Wolf and Dr. Rachel Levine, state health commissioner, had some facts behind them when they blamed restaurants and bars for the state’s increase in COVID-19 cases.

If, as the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement checks seem to confirm, the state’s bars and restaurants are following the state’s guidance, then either the state’s restrictions don’t protect anyone from spreading or catching COVID-19 or Wolf and Levine were mistaken and bars and restaurants weren’t a major factor in the spread.

The governor needs to rethink these additional limitations or provide some facts to back up his assertions.

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