PRESENTE thanks Pennsylvania Capital Star for its partnership.

By Cassie Miller

Gov. Tom Wolf asked Pennsylvanians to avoid public gatherings Thursday, as he announced that restaurants and bars again would close to indoor dining, along with a host of other restrictions due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases across the commonwealth. 

“It’s become clear that we need to take further action to mitigate the risk of COVID-19,” Wolf told journalists on a conference call. He announced the new COVID-19 mitigation efforts from his home, following a positive COVID test earlier this week.

During the three-week long mitigation period, extracurricular activities at schools, such as sports, plays, concerts and dances are suspended.

Retail businesses must operate at 50 percent of their maximum capacity. Gyms, museums, casinos and other entertainment facilities also must close. 

All in-person dining at restaurants and bars is prohibited. Additionally, indoor gatherings and events are restricted to no more than 10 people. Outdoor events are limited to no more than 50 people. 

The restrictions are set to begin Sat. Dec. 12 at 12:01 a.m. and run through Mon Jan. 4 at 8 a.m.

Wolf said that the measures would be enforced through warnings and citations from the state’s various regulatory agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor and Industry and others. 

Jaewon Ryu, president and CEO of Geisinger Health joined Wolf on the call, adding that he believes the next 7-14 days “are going to be difficult for us.” 

Calling the trend “concerning,” Ryu said Geisinger has seen “a tripling of their COVID-postive patients since October.” 

On Thursday, state health officials confirmed 11,972 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 457,289. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Health also confirmed 248 new COVID-related deaths. To date, the death of 12,010 Pennsylvanians has been attributed to COVID-19. 

“I want to keep our healthcare workers from becoming overwhelmed,” Wolf said.

Wolf and state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine expressed hope that a vaccine would be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and distributed to hospitals as early as next week.

In anticipation of new mitigation measures, a statement released Wednesday by House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, suggested that Wolf was going to prohibit Christmas celebrations, saying “Gov. Wolf, do not cancel Christmas.”

“Government mandates will not cure COVID-19 and unilateral shutdowns will not create personal responsibility,” Benninghoff said before adding “canceling Christmas is not the answer.”

Congressman Fred Keller, R-12th, made no mention of COVID-19 in his rebuttal to Wolf, instead saying, “shutdowns don’t work.”

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