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Coronavirus

More people can gather indoors in Pa. as coronavirus cases decline, Wolf announces

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Pointing to declining case numbers and increasing vaccination numbers, Gov. Tom Wolf said he’s taking a “measured approach” to easing restrictions put in place by his administration over the past year.
Fred Adams / For Spotlight PA

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HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday that he is lifting some statewide COVID-19 restrictions effective immediately, upping occupancy limits for both indoor and outdoor events and eliminating out-of-state travel restrictions in place since November. Mask mandates and social distancing rules remain in effect.

Pointing to declining case numbers and increasing vaccination numbers, the governor said he’s taking a “measured approach” to easing restrictions put in place by his administration over the past year. Monday’s announcement comes just under one year after Pennsylvania recorded its first coronavirus death on March 18, 2020. Twenty-four thousand more Pennsylvanians have died from the virus since then.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Wolf said Monday, adding, “We need to balance protecting public health with leading the state to a robust economic recovery. We are lifting mitigation efforts only when we believe it is safe to do so.”

Under the revised and lifted rules, maximum occupancy limits for indoor events are increasing to 15% of a venue’s maximum occupancy with a 6-foot physical distancing requirement still in place. Outdoor gathering limits will increase to 20% of a venue’s capacity, and out-of-state travel restrictions are eliminated, removing 14-day quarantine and testing requirements for incoming travelers.

Indoor events were previously limited to 5% or 10%, based on a venue’s size, while outdoor events were limited to 15% capacity for smaller venues and 5% or 10% for larger ones.

Monday’s softening and standardizing of these rules would have been nearly unthinkable months ago, when Pennsylvania was setting near-daily records for new COVID-19 cases amid a dramatic cold-weather resurgence and official warnings against in-person holiday gatherings.

Pennsylvania reported more than 12,000 new cases on a single day in mid-December. By comparison, the state reported 1,945 new cases on Sunday, as the seven-day average dropped to levels not seen in nearly four months.

But Pennsylvania’s shrinking case numbers are still above the levels seen last year when Pennsylvania began instituting the kind of COVID-19 restrictions it’s now rolling back.

In announcing the lifting and easing of some COVID-19 rules on Monday, Wolf’s office noted Pennsylvania’s vaccination numbers are climbing after a troubled rollout. It also noted a desire to lessen impacts after a year of dire economic and societal disruptions.

And while public health officials nationwide have warned against easing COVID-19 rules too quickly, Wolf’s office says it is moving methodically and incrementally.

This story will be updated.

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