In a complete 180 degree turn in policy from earlier this week, the Wolf Administration has announced new restrictions due to coronavirus.
Wolf says a main factor in the the decision is a recent increase of cases. But just Monday, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said there were no plans to impose new restrictions amid the recent rise in cases.
All indoor gatherings, including indoor dining, are limited to 25 percent capacity. This limit includes staff. Bars can also not serve customers at the bar, and alcohol can only be served indoors to tables as part of a meal.
Nightclubs are completely closed, and gyms are “directed to prioritize outdoor physical fitness activities.” Other indoor activities are limited to 25 persons.
The Wolf Administration said these new measures target “southwest Pennsylvania, but also in other counties in the state.” However, the order does not specifically name counties.
This comes as Bucks County is seeing its lowest hospitalization and death rates since late March. New cases are also holding steady and not rising.
Bucks County Department of Health Director Dr. David Damsker recently said the county is “doing well.”
“Our baseline numbers have remained relatively static, even though we still have cases related to travel.”
The Wolf Administration cited three reasons for the recent increase in cases. First, it stated Pennsylvanians are ignoring mask-wearing requirements and social distancing.
The second reason was an increase in cases due to out-of-state travel. Finally, it listed “a lack of national coordination,” blaming residents of southern and western states for not social distancing.
“When we hit our peak on April 9, we had nearly two thousand new cases that day with other days’ cases hovering around 1,000,” said Wolf. “Medical experts looking at the trajectory we are on now are projecting that this new surge could soon eclipse the April peak. With our rapid case increases we need to act again now.”
While targeted at the southeastern part of the commonwealth, the new orders are vague in where they apply. This is a change from the previous phased approach, which evaluated each county on specific criteria.
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) slammed the governor’s reversal in a statement Wednesday.
“Once again, Gov. Wolf has ignored the voices of the people and refused to work with their representatives, instead choosing to act alone and issue another harmful, unilateral order with far-reaching and devastating implications. The irreversible impact of his countless, confusing orders cannot be overstated. Gov. Wolf’s decision today will close the doors of some small businesses forever and devastate the livelihoods of so many Pennsylvanians who were just beginning to feel hopeful for the future.”
Bucks County officials will be holding a press conference at noon Thursday. They will comment on the new restrictions among other topics.