Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that he intends to allow the latest round of COVID business shutdown orders to expire on Jan. 4.
Sure, he’s sticking to his word issued nearly 3 weeks ago and allowing restaurants to re-open for indoor dining, allowing fitness centers and entertainments to re-open, and allowing schools to continue extra-curricular activities. But the reasoning he gave for his backing off these shutdown orders aren’t necessarily true. At least, they’re not true here in Schuylkill County.
Wolf Allowing Shutdown Orders to Expire on January 4th
During a news conference on Wednesday, Wolf said it’s clear that the mitigation efforts – aka the shutdown orders – he issued just a couple weeks before Christmas are working. Cases of COVID-19 have leveled off and hospitals aren’t experiencing the same strained resources.
“Our mitigation efforts over the past several weeks are working, and I thank everyone who abided by the restrictions put in place to protect us,” Wolf said in a statement. “Every time we make a small decision to avoid risk – or take steps to make our actions a little bit less risky – we are helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. At this time, my intention is to allow the time-limited mitigation orders that went into effect on December 12 to expire as planned on January 4.”
But is what he’s saying about these efforts working true?
Not in Schuylkill County. Here, cases of COVID-19 are about the same as they were, on a daily basis, since the day the new shutdown orders were put in place, Dec. 12. Statewide, daily new case totals are down since Dec. 12 but so is the number of PCR tests conducted.
Now, that’s not to suggest the orders be extended. But were they really necessary in the first place? Did they really have an effect or is this just something says to convince themselves what they’re doing is right?
Since nothing has really changed as far as daily case totals and percent positive rate – a key factor the state uses in determining whether these efforts are working – all these shutdown orders (or “mitigation” efforts) did was put the many small businesses affected by them in greater peril.
What Changes on Jan. 4?
Here’s what will happen on Jan. 4 in Pennsylvania now that the short-term mitigation efforts will be allowed to expire. This information comes directly from the Governor’s statement Wednesday:
- Child care may open, complying with guidance
- Congregate care restrictions in place
- Prison and hospital restrictions determined by individual facilities
- Schools subject to CDC and commonwealth guidance.
- Telework must continue unless impossible
- Businesses with in-person operations must follow updated business and building safety requirements
- Masks are required in businesses
- All in-person businesses may operate at 75% occupancy, except where noted
- Self-certified restaurants may open at 50% capacity for indoor dining; Restaurants that have not self-certified are at 25% capacity for indoor dining,
- On-premises alcohol consumption prohibited unless part of a meal; cocktails-to-go and carryout beverages are allowed
- Serving alcohol for on-site consumption must end at 11 p.m., and all alcoholic beverages must be removed from patrons by midnight
- Personal care services (including hair salons and barbershops) open at 50% occupancy and by appointment only
- Indoor recreation and health facilities (such as gyms and spas) open at 50% occupancy with appointments strongly encouraged; fitness facilities directed to prioritize outdoor activities.
- All entertainment (such as casinos, theaters, and museums) open at 50% occupancy.
- Construction at full capacity with continued implementation of protocol.
- Hospitals are still being monitored to determine if elective procedure reductions should be ordered regionally.
- The out-of-state testing requirement is still in place.
- Local governments may still have more strict guidance in place.
Photo: Office of the Governor