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Restaurants, theaters, gyms can resume indoor services on Jan. 4, Wolf says

Gov. Tom Wolf’s limited-time mitigation efforts prohibiting all indoor dining at restaurants is still set to expire at 8 a.m. on Jan. 4, Wolf announced in a press conference on Wednesday.

Gyms, movie theaters, fitness centers and restaurants can resume indoor operations after the governor’s three-week mitigation order that began on Dec. 12 as it was initially outlined when first announced on Dec. 10.

“This does not mean that we are out of the woods not by any means,” said Wolf, adding that the state will resume the same efforts that it enforced earlier this month. “We still have significant mitigation efforts in place.”

Mitigation efforts still in place after the indoor mitigation order is over next month include mask-wearing requirements, limitations based on venue size, business capacity limits and restaurant self-certification.

The State Department of Health announced on Wednesday that the statewide total of positive COVID-19 cases has grown to 631,333 people with a total of 15,672 deaths since last March.

“If we get complacent and let case numbers continue to go back up, the danger to our families, health care system will continue with vast consequences,” Wolf said.

Despite the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases over the past month, Melissa Bova, vice president of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodge Association, said that the data does not show that restaurants are the problem.

“The data that was out there showed that the spread of the virus was happening with people congregating in their homes,” she said. “It was a personal attack when the announcement was made when our industry had to be shut down for indoor dining when we were not the cause of the issue.”

Wolf’s mandate fell at the busiest time of the year for many Pennsylvania businesses when people are out with their families and have more cash to spend at restaurants. While January is part of the slowest season for restaurants, Bova said that businesses will make more money at 50% capacity than not at all.

Bova said that the association was glad to see Wolf confirm that restaurants would be reopening in early January. Since the Governor announced the order earlier this month, she said that businesses have called the association daily asking if the order would be extended.

While she said that it’s a positive that restaurants will be able to return to 50% capacity in January, Bova said that there are a number of mandates, such as meal requirements, bar seat bans and curfews, that will need to be lifted before restaurants can begin to fully recover.

Ioannis Pashakis
Ioannis Pashakis covers health care, the gig economy, cannabis and technology. Email him at ipashakis@bridgetowermedia.com.

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