Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said Wednesday that he will ease COVID-19 economic restrictions on Monday as planned.
The announcement comes after a three-week ban on indoor dining and alcohol sales amid an alarming spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine confirmed that new infections have slowed since the limits were put into place.
“While the number of hospitalizations and deaths remains entirely too high, it appears that our new cases have plateaued,” Wolf said. “That means the restrictions we put in place have been effective.”
On Dec. 12, Wolf ordered bars, restaurants, gyms and other entertainment venues to cease indoor operations through Jan. 4, 2021. Doing so, he said, would prevent virus patients from overwhelming hospitals, save lives and keep other residents safe until widespread vaccination occurs in a few months.
“I don’t want Pennsylvanians to have false expectations,” he said. “We anticipate that it’s going to be months, not weeks, until phase three vaccine distribution begins to the general public.
“The rest of us are going to need to be patient until it’s our turn,” he added.
Hospitals, nursing homes get vaccine first
Hospitals and nursing homes began immunizing workers and residents this month with vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Pennsylvania’s three-phase plan prioritizes front line workers, the elderly and vulnerable residents. The vaccine is not expected to be available to the general public until springtime.
“So mitigation is more important than ever,” Levine said. “We cannot let our guard down.”
When the restrictions lift on Monday, restaurants and businesses still must follow capacity limits. A mask mandate will still be in effect.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” Wolf said.
Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania’s General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.