ALLEGHENY CO., Pa. — In response to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County, health officials are ordering all bars and restaurants in the county to stop the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption.
The order will go into effect at 5 p.m. on June 30.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and health department director Dr. Debra Bogen said the “alarming spike” in cases -- there have been more positive cases in the past two days than there were in the past two weeks -- led to this decision.
Fitzgerald initially said during a press conference Sunday that all bars in the county were going to close. Minutes later, Bogen clarified, saying she is ordering all businesses to stop selling alcohol for on-site consumption beginning on June 30.
Restaurants and bars can stay open but with outdoor seating encouraged. People will be allowed to get to-go alcoholic beverages from restaurants.
This comes after a new daily record was set for COVID-19 positive cases in Allegheny County on Sunday, the second day in a row. The health department reports 96 positive cases of coronavirus Sunday. That is on top of 90 new cases reported Saturday.
“For the first time since COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the state, Allegheny County led the state in the number of new COVID-19 cases,” said Fitzgerald in a release. “We’re going the wrong direction. While most resident and businesses have been following the rules, these requirements and mitigation measures address the hot spots that have been identified during case investigations. These are severe steps, but we have to take steps now to limit the community spread that endangers those who are older, high-risk or otherwise immunocompromised.”
During the press conference, Bogen also said masks in restaurants must be worn “even when seated and may only be removed when eating or drinking.” Also, consistent with Pennsylvania’s order, masks will be required in all businesses.
Officials said businesses that violate these rules will be ordered to close for a minimum of one week. Restaurants will now be held to social distancing requirements, limited to 50% occupancy, and are asked to prioritize outdoor seating.
Bogen also recommended a 14-day quarantine for those traveling out of state or to have two negative tests at least 48 hours apart for the quarantine to be lifted.
Bogen offered the additional reminders. If you are going to travel or have vacations planned:
- Consider rescheduling, changing or postponing plans if the destination is seeing a recent surge in COVID-19 cases
- Avoid crowded locations and close contact with others
- Wear a mask even if they aren’t required
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently. This is especially important after being in public places, touching high-use surfaces such as door knobs and counters, and before and after eating, drinking or smoking
Everyone should remember to:
- Get tested if you’re sick and stay home
- Limit trips out of the house
- Wear a mask if you do go out. Masks are required in all businesses.
- Avoid large groups and keep 6 feet away from others
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently
Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement following the county’s announcement Sunday, supporting officials’ decision to increase mitigation efforts:
“I commend Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Health Department Director Dr. Debra Brogan for the decision to shut down bars and restaurants for on-premises alcohol sales in Allegheny County effective June 30. This was the right move to work to stop the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in its tracks and to remind all residents and businesses that the best defense we have in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping Pennsylvanians safe is to continue to follow the mask-wearing requirement, practice social distancing, and follow safety guidelines even and especially during the green phase of reopening. We cannot become complacent in practicing the measures we know can protect everyone from the spread of this very contagious virus.
“It is my hope that swift action on the part of the county results in swift containment and the return to an increased commitment to protect all residents, especially those most vulnerable to COVID-19, and that this action sets an example for the rest of the state to continue to follow mitigation efforts put in place to protect lives and livelihoods.
“Mitigation efforts statewide include the requirement to wear a mask when in businesses, following occupancy limits in all businesses and gatherings, practicing social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing surfaces – these simple practices can make a huge difference in protecting ourselves, our seniors, our neighbors and our communities. Even if you believe you will not get sick, you can, and you can spread the virus to someone who may not be able to recover as easily.”
Mike Manning is the owner of Archie’s in the South Side.
“For the people who’ve been following the rules, it’s a slap in the face,” he said of the new county rules.
He said he’ll have to furlough some of his employees.
“My staff has families, babies, house payments. That’s who I feel bad for also,” Manning said.
Nadines Diner is closing up because alcohol sales are their bread and butter.
“I don’t know what the different is if they were to drink a coffee or a beer. To me, that’s no difference,” Matthew Voelker, the owner of Nadine’s Diner, said. “It’s not worth it for us to stay open.”
Lucky Dogs Bar and Grill just opened in February in Evans City in Butler County. It was shut down only weeks later due to the pandemic.
Mandy Cumberland is keeping a close eye on what is happening in Allegheny County.
“And we’re all afraid it’s really going to affect us again. We’re all just starting to get back on track, make some money, be able to take care of our families and we’re worried it’s going to come through again,” she said.
Plastic barriers are up in the bar area to keep people separated. She wears a mask while bar-tending. The small business is just getting back on its feet.
“I’m hoping everything stays in Allegheny County. Hoping and praying,” Cumberland said.
County officials said they are not seeing the spike in COVID-19 cases in Washington County like is occurring in other areas.
At Frankie I’s Bar and Grill in North Strabane Township, signs about wearing masks are plastered across the restaurant. Red X’s were put down in an effort to keep people separated, too.
“I’m at the age. I’m very concerned. I like what they are doing in Allegheny County,” Chuck Warren said while enjoying his lunch.
The bar’s general manager said he doesn’t know if people will cross the county line for dine-in drinks.
“I think I will see some. I don’t know how that affects us because we have an occupancy issue,” Bob Rizzo said.
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