HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that his office would be lifting the COVID-19 mitigation orders, except the masking order, on Memorial Day.
Wolf said in a news release the current order requiring state residents wear a mask will be lifted once 70% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older were fully vaccinated. Right now, masks are required to be worn indoors and outdoors when away from your home.
“What this announcement means is that on Memorial Day, life goes essentially back to normal,” said state Rep. Tim O’Neal.
Requirements such as testing and reporting new cases will remain in place for hospitals and long-term care facilities. Maintaining requirements for hospitals and long-term care facilities will allow Pennsylvania to continue to closely monitor COVID-19 spread while lifting other restrictions.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends that residents refer to Centers for Disease Control guidance and recommendations regarding ongoing COVID-19 safety measures and procedures. Municipalities and school districts will be permitted to implement stricter rules if they feel the need to do so.
Pennsylvania crossed the 50% vaccination threshold on Monday, meaning at least half of the state’s residents reported being having at least one dose of the vaccine. Reaching 70%, however, could be a challenge as medical experts say it will be an uphill battle.
In March, Wolf amended the state’s COVID-19 orders. Maximum capacity limits for indoor events were set at 15% and masks were still required to be worn. Outdoor venues were allowed to have up to 20% capacity. Out-of-state travel restrictions were also lifted at that time.
Last week, the state amended the orders again to fall in line with CDC requirements, allowing fully-vaccinated people to visit mask-free with other fully vaccinated people indoors.
THIS is the state’s original order outlining the COVID-19 mitigation measures.
Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald issued a statement calling Wolf’s announcement “good news for this state”:
“Today’s announcement by the governor is good news for this state and county. I applaud Governor Wolf and his team for all of their efforts that have allowed us to get to this point. Pennsylvania has now reached 80.5% of distributed vaccines that have been administered.
“As we continue to get vaccinations into arms, we are nearing 70% of our adult population in this county having at least one shot. To know we can go back to normal after Memorial Day is great news.”
Changes coming to Pittsburgh Pirates games at PNC Park
With Wolf’s announcement, changes are coming to Pirates games at PNC Park:
“Today’s announcement is exciting and welcomed news for the Pirates, our fans and our community. We are thrilled to be able to open up more opportunities for fans to safely reconnect through the Pittsburgh summertime tradition of Pirates baseball. This is another major step for all of us in overcoming this pandemic. “In the coming days we will announce details on the impact that today’s announcement will have on capacity limitations and safety protocols at PNC Park. While the state will still require everyone inside PNC Park to wear face masks, we encourage all adults to get vaccinated in order to remove the mask mandate. “We would like to thank Governor Tom Wolf, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Bill Peduto, as well as all of our state, county and local health officials, for their continued leadership as we navigate through the ongoing impact of this pandemic.”
Additionally, the Pierogi Race will be able to head back inside the stadium.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were already working toward having a special section for vaccinated fans.
A Pittsburgh Steelers spokesperson told Channel 11 they are looking forward to having fans back at Heinz Field:
“Though we are still several months from the start of the NFL season, we are encouraged by the steps being taken around the country, and specifically in the state of Pennsylvania, that will hopefully reach our goal of a full Heinz Field in the Fall.”
Impacts to bars, restaurants; Salon owner has mixed feelings
“I’ve been waiting for it. I think that it’s a long time coming,” said the Sherri Kelly, owner of Mezza Luna Cafe in the Northside. “We will have more people than we can actually interact with, which is what we like to do rather than, ‘Here’s your food. See you later.’”
Across town, Jeff Natale with Studio Booth said he has some mixed feelings about the plan.
“I was excited about the fact that being able to have more people in the salon but also concerned that we are moving too quickly without knowing the risk associated,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association issued a statement following Wolf’s announcement:
“Today we learned that the Wolf administration in coordination with the COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force will lift mitigation orders with the exception of masking on Monday, May 31, at 12:01 a.m. Masking will continue until 70 percent of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated.
“Pennsylvania’s small business taverns and licensed restaurants are certainly ready for this change as the past 14 months have been some of the worst in industry history. There are countless stories of financial ruin and jobs lost.
“But now the time has come in which we can move into a full recovery mode. It’s time to make the come back greater than the set back.
“In recent months, our state legislature and administration has been working with our industry to help it survive and recover. We’re thankful for that assistance but want to remind both chambers and the Governor’s Office that the help shouldn’t stop just because mitigation orders targeting the industry appear to be coming to a close. There’s more work to be done, moving bills to bring back all patrons and rebuild a healthy industry again.
“Speaking of patrons, as many tavern owners know, it was the support of patrons ordering take-out or buying gift cards during the roughest days of mitigation orders that allowed many establishments to keep their heads above water. The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association thanks all patrons who supported our Member establishments during the past year.
“Finally, the PLBTA thanks all of its Members who stood with the Association as we navigated the past year together. We look forward to continuing to work on behalf of our Member establishments.”
Catholic Diocese of Greensburg
The Catholic Diocese of Greensburg said they’re hopeful after the announcement:
“We are reviewing this information now. At first glance, this announcement gives us much hope as we strive to engage the faithful in worship, social events and fundraising activities.”