Pennsylvania halts school sports, bans indoor dining
Pennsylvania is temporarily halting school sports and other extracurricular activities, ordering gyms, theaters and casinos to close and banning indoor dining at restaurants as state officials respond to the worsening pandemic with new restrictions.
A day after announcing his own COVID-19 diagnosis, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the widely expected clampdown Thursday in what he said was an effort to slow the accelerating spread of the coronavirus and prevent hospitals from becoming overrun.
Wolf moved to tighten restrictions after weeks of exploding case numbers and sharply rising hospitalizations and deaths
“We all hoped it would not come to this,” he said at a virtual news conference, but “we need to slow the spread to save lives.”
The restrictions — which includes an indoor gathering limit of 10 and an outdoor gathering limit of 50 and capacity restrictions at retail stores — will take effect Saturday and will remain in effect until Jan. 4.
Wolf had said on Monday that additional pandemic measures might be needed to slow the spread of the virus, warning that hospitals were under increasing strain and would have to start turning away patients if they become overwhelmed.
He tested positive for the coronavirus a day later and revealed the diagnosis on Wednesday. He said Thursday he is feeling fine and that his most recent test was negative.
His office said Wolf was found to have the virus after he underwent a routine surveillance test at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, where he has been working.
Wolf’s spouse, Frances Wolf, tested negative for the virus but will continue to quarantine with him at their home in Mount Wolf, near York, the governor’s office said Thursday.
Republican lawmakers have staunchly opposed most of Wolf’s restrictions since mid-April and have accused him of abusing his powers. Anticipating that Wolf would announce a new round of restrictions, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre County, warned him against it Thursday.
“Do not use your executive order pen to devastate lives and livelihoods,” Benninghoff said in a statement.
The virus is taking an increasingly heavy toll on the state, which is now averaging 10,000 new confirmed cases a day and has a record number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital. Pennsylvania reported 248 new deaths Thursday as the statewide toll passed 12,000.
The Wolf administration has already imposed indoor capacity restrictions on bars and restaurants, limited indoor and outdoor gatherings, mandated the wearing of masks, and required out-of-state travelers to test negative for the virus before arrival. Health officials have also begged people to stay at home whenever possible.
But Wolf acknowledged Monday those measures and advisories have not prevented Pennsylvania’s numbers from going in the wrong direction amid the national surge.