Pennsylvania governor bans indoor restaurant dining over the holidays

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Order comes after soaring Covid-19 death rate in Keystone State.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered sweeping coronavirus restrictions that ban indoor dining and close gyms through the holiday period in the nation’s fifth-most populous state.

The orders take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Sat. Dec. 12, and remain in effect until 8 a.m. on January 4, 2021.

The Keystone State has seen 1,100 new deaths from coronavirus in the past week, far more than the number for neighboring Delaware even when adjusted for population.

Wolf pointed to studies that found that astudy by JP Morgan analyzed credit card spending of more than 30 million Chase cardholders and Johns Hopkins University’s case tracker, finding that higher restaurant spending in a state was accompanied by a rise new infections three weeks later.

Wolf also pointed to Stanford University researchthat found that restaurants accounted for a significant amount of new infections. In contrast,research from Yale University found that closing restaurants reduced fatality rates.

In amending an emergency order that ordered 10 p.m. restaurant closings, Delaware Gov. John Carney kept indoor dining at 30 percent capacity. It followed an outcry from the Delaware Restaurant Association when capacity was earlier cut from 60 to 30 percent.

The Wolf administration also pointed to a new study from Stanford University and published in the journal Nature that used cellphone data collected from 10 U.S. cities from March to May to demonstrate that restaurants, gyms, cafes, churches, and other indoor venues accounted for eight in 10 new infections in the early months of the U.S. coronavirus epidemic.

Limits on outdoor gatherings to 50 were also ordered.The administration reported that the CDC states that medium-sized outdoor gatherings carry a higher risk of COVID-19 spread, even with social distancing.

The CDC notes that the more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with Covid-19 and Covid spread, and the higher the level of community transmission in the area that the gathering is being held, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spreading during a gathering.

All in-person businesses serving the public may only operate at up to 50 percent of the maximum capacity stated on the applicable certificate of occupancy.

The same Stanford University study that collected cellphone data also noted that limiting indoor capacity can reduce transmissions.

Indoor gym activities and theaters, casinos, and other entertainment spots will be barred during the holiday period.

Delaware stopped short of closing venues but reduced occupancy limits to retail stores of 100,000 square feet to 20 percent, with 30 percent capacity limits to smaller stores. Capacity was further reduced at gyms.

“We know that COVID-19 thrives in places where people gather together,” Wolf said. “Therefore, these mitigation measures target high-risk environments and activities and aim to reduce the spread of this devastating virus.”

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