Pa. gov orders restaurants, bars to close dine-in service in 5 counties over COVID-19 outbreak

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- In a new front to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all restaurants and bars to close their dine-in facilities starting Monday in five heavily populated counties, including Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, and the four counties ringing Philadelphia.

The order, issued late Sunday night, followed Pittsburgh's announcement of a ban on public gatherings of 50 people or more, tightening an earlier restriction Sunday to bring it in line with new guidelines from federal health officials.

The bans begin Monday morning.

Wolf's order to bars and restaurants toughens a posture toward private businesses in Philadelphia's suburbs in which Wolf had urged business to "what's right."

The order applies to Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties, where one-fourth of Pennsylvania's population lives. It prohibits eating and drinking inside restaurants and bars for at least 14 days, but does not bar delivery and drive-through service. Businesses that do not adhere to this order could face enforcement actions.

"Ensuring the health and safety of Pennsylvanians is the highest priority as the state grapples with a growing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, and as the virus continues to spread, it is in the best interest of the public to encourage social distancing by closing restaurants and bars temporarily," Gov. Wolf said.

The administration will reevaluate the decision after 14 days, Wolf said in the statement.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 16 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 65 on Sunday.

New cases were reported in the following counties: Allegheny; Bucks; Cumberland; Delaware; Lehigh; Luzerne; Monroe; Montgomery and Philadelphia. All are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital.



According to officials, there have been at least 446 patients to date who have been tested or are in the process of being tested. There are 205 who have tested negative; at least 65 confirmed cases, and at least 183 patient samples are either at the lab for testing or on their way to the lab.

"While we anticipate that there will be more Pennsylvanians with COVID-19 in the coming days and weeks, it is important for residents to know the commonwealth is prepared and to be prepared themselves," Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine said. "Right now, you have a higher chance of testing positive for COVID-19 if you have traveled to a country or state with known community outbreaks or have come in contact with someone who has the virus. We are working with the health care community across Pennsylvania to keep them informed, consult on patient testing and ensuring they have the resources they need to care for patients."

On Saturday, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced a "phased closure" of wine and spirit stores in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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Governor Tom Wolf provides coronavirus update for Pennsylvania on Saturday afternoon.



A RISE IN CASES

More than 30 cases have been reported across the four counties, though the vast majority were in Montgomery County.

"If we can slow the spread of this virus ... we can keep an enormous number of Pennsylvanians from needing the kind of emergency treatment at the same time that's going to overwhelm our health care system," Wolf said. "Stay calm, stay home and stay safe."

The Wolf administration said it "strongly encourages businesses to act now before the governor or the secretary of health finds it necessary to compel closures under the law for the interest of public health."

COVID-19 IN PHILADELPHIA

In Philadelphia, however, city officials said people should feel free to continue to go to retail businesses and public parks while warning that this advice could change.

Mayor Jim Kenney urged people to wash their hands and stay three feet from other people but added, "go out and have dinner and tip your wait staff, because they're struggling right now."

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Residents across Philadelphia practiced their social distancing on Saturday night.



Museums and casinos in the commonwealth joined the growing number of organizations announcing temporary closures due to the outbreak. Officials said Free Library locations in Philadelphia would be closed to the public, heeding a recommendation from the state, but staff members were told to report to work.

This follows the shutdown of all K-12 schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The schools will be closed for two weeks.

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Officials announced that all district schools will be closed for two weeks, starting Monday, March 16.



The following measures are now in place and will remain for at least two weeks. The governor's office said it will evaluate options throughout that period

Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester counties

*The state requests that all non-essential businesses close. Wolf's office asked that "business owners for non-essential services consider the well-being of their customers, staff, and community when deciding to close or remain open."

*Supermarkets, pharmacies, and gas stations will remain open.

*Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties will close beginning Tuesday, March 17 until further notice.

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Pennsylvania's social distancing measures are now in effect in Delaware County and officials are trying to keep residents safe.


*Essential services will be available: police, fire and emergency medical services, and essential services for vulnerable populations.

*Freedom of travel will remain, but the governor and his administration ask all people to refrain from non-essential travel.

*A no visitor policy has been implemented for correctional facilities and nursing homes and will be evaluated for other facilities.

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Residents in Montgomery County flocked to the stores as health officials work to contain the coronavirus.



All of Pennsylvania
*The Wolf Administration strongly encourages the suspension of large gatherings, events, conferences of 250 individuals or more.

*The Wolf Administration discourages individuals from traveling to recreational activities like gyms, movie theaters and shopping malls.

*The Wolf Administration encourages religious leaders to exercise discretion to mitigate the spread of illness.

*Initiated a no-visitor policy at all State correctional facilities and nursing homes to ensure the safety of inmates, residents, staff and visitors.

*Restricted visitors in state centers effective today to ensure health and safety for individuals with an intellectual disability.

*Restricted visitors in assisted living and personal care homes to minimize exposure to our seniors and individuals with disabilities.

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Commonwealth Employees

*The Office of Administration provided a message to all Commonwealth employees regarding those who work or live in Montgomery County. This same guidance will be sent to employees who live and work in Delaware County, Bucks and Chester counties.

*This includes individuals who live in Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks and Chester counties and work in other counties and those who live in other counties and work in Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks and Chester counties.

*Individuals will be instructed to work from home.
*The Commonwealth is authorizing a 10 workday paid absence for individuals who don't have telework capabilities.

*Facilities that are in Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks and Chester counties that are Commonwealth facilities and provide essential services will remain open.

*Facilities that are administered by Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks and Chester counties will follow the same procedures.
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The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is shutting down schools, community centers, gyms, and entertainment venues in Montgomery County for 14 days in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.



As of Sunday night cases in Pennsylvania listed 16 new positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 65.

The county-by-county breakdown of cases is as follows:

Allegheny (3)
Bucks (4)
Chester (2)
Cumberland (5)
Delaware (7)
Lehigh (1)
Luzerne (1)
Monroe (6)
Montgomery (24)
Northampton (1)
Philadelphia (8)
Pike (1)
Washington (1)
Wayne (1)
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