New Pa. COVID-19 restrictions will be allowed to expire next week, Gov. Wolf says

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The new COVID-19 mandates that have been in effect in Pennsylvania since the week before Christmas will be allowed to expire next week, Gov. Tom Wolf announced in a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

Wolf initially announced the new restrictions on Dec. 10 that most notably prohibited indoor dining at Pa. restaurants for a three-week period.

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“Our mitigation efforts over the past several weeks are working, and I thank everyone who abided by the restrictions put in place to protect us,” Wolf said. “Every time we make a small decision to avoid risk – or take steps to make our actions a little bit less risky – we are helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. At this time, my intention is to allow the time-limited mitigation orders that went into effect on December 12 to expire as planned on January 4.”

Beginning at 8:01 a.m. on Jan. 4, the following restrictions will expire:

  • All in-person indoor dining at businesses in the retail food services industry, including, but not limited to, bars, restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, social clubs, and private catered events is prohibited.
  • Outdoor dining, take-out food service, and take-out alcohol sales are permitted and may continue, subject to any limitations or restrictions imposed by Pennsylvania law, or this or any other Order issued by the Sec. of Health or by the governor.
  • Indoor gatherings and events of more than 10 persons are prohibited.
  • Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and other places of congregate worship are specifically excluded from the limitations set forth above during religious services, these institutions are strongly encouraged to find alternative methods for worship, as in person gatherings pose a significant risk to participants at this time. While this an incredibly difficult recommendation to make, particularly at this time of year, faith leaders must carefully weigh the health risks to their congregants given the immense amount of community spread of COVID-19.
  • Outdoor gatherings and events of more than 50 persons are prohibited.
  • All in-person businesses serving the public may only operate at up to 50% of the maximum capacity stated on the applicable certificate of occupancy, except as limited by existing orders to a smaller capacity limit.
  • Indoor operations at gyms and fitness facilities are prohibited.
  • Outdoor facilities and outdoor classes can continue, but all participants must wear face coverings in accordance with the Sec. of Health’s Updated Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings, including any subsequent amendments, and practice physical distancing requirements.
  • All in-person businesses in the entertainment industry serving the public within a building or indoor defined area, including, but not limited to, theaters, concert venues, museums, movie theaters, arcades, casinos, bowling alleys, private clubs, and all other similar entertainment, recreational or social facilities, are prohibited from operation.
  • Voluntary activities sponsored or approved by a school entity’s governing body or administration are suspended, but these extracurricular activities may be held virtually. This includes, but is not limited to, attendance at or participation in activities such musical ensembles, school plays, student council, clubs, and school dances.
  • All sports at K-12 public schools, nonpublic schools, private schools and club, travel, recreational, intermural, and intramural sports are paused.
  • Professional or collegiate sports activities may continue in accordance with guidance from the CDC and the Department of Health.
  • Spectators may not attend such sports activities in person.

Mask-wearing requirements, business capacity limits and restaurant self-certification requirements will still be in effect after Jan. 4.


Since the rules on attending sporting events is being lifted, many are curious if the Pittsburgh Steelers will allow fans to attend the team’s home game on Wild Card Weekend, which will be Jan. 9-10.

The Steelers issued a statement regarding possible fans in the stands: “We are still reviewing our options and will continue to stay in contact with public health officials. We hope to have a decision later this week or early next week.”

Wolf encouraged people to keep their guard up until the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available to the general public.

Other mitigation efforts that will remain in effect on Jan. 4 include:

Business, work, school, child care and congregate settings

  • Child care may open, complying with guidance
  • Congregate care restrictions in place
  • Prison and hospital restrictions determined by individual facilities
  • Schools subject to CDC and commonwealth guidance.
  • Telework must continue unless impossible
  • Businesses with in-person operations must follow updated business and building safety requirements
  • Masks are required in businesses
  • All in-person businesses may operate at 75% occupancy, except where noted
  • Self-certified restaurants may open at 50% capacity for indoor dining; Restaurants that have not self-certified are at 25% capacity for indoor dining,
  • On-premises alcohol consumption prohibited unless part of a meal; cocktails-to-go and carryout beverages are allowed
  • Serving alcohol for on-site consumption must end at 11 p.m., and all alcoholic beverages must be removed from patrons by midnight
  • Personal care services (including hair salons and barbershops) open at 50% occupancy and by appointment only
  • Indoor recreation and health facilities (such as gyms and spas) open at 50% occupancy with appointments strongly encouraged; fitness facilities directed to prioritize outdoor activities.
  • All entertainment (such as casinos, theaters, and museums) open at 50% occupancy.
  • Construction at full capacity with continued implementation of protocol.
  • Hospitals are still being monitored to determine if elective procedure reductions should be ordered regionally.
  • The out-of-state testing requirement is still in place.
  • Local governments may still have more strict guidance in place.

Social Restrictions

  • Gatherings limits determined using maximum occupancy calculator.
  • Face coverings are required to be worn indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home.
  • Unnecessary travel should be limited.

The Pa. Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association issued the following statement following Wolf’s announcement:

“Today, Governor Tom Wolf announced he will not extend the current temporary order that has banned indoor seating at taverns and restaurants through the holiday season until January 4.

While this is positive news for establishments across the state, unfortunately the lingering impact on both businesses and employees will be felt as we move into 2021. Businesses lost a key time of the year, while many bartenders and servers missed out on usually very generous tips during the holiday season.

The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association urges the legislature to help fix the financial problems small business taverns and licensed restaurants face as a result of this current order. When the legislature returns in January, we ask our state senators and representatives to move legislation to provide industry-specific grants.

Furthermore, to help the industry recover, we urge Governor Wolf to lift the order that prevents taverns and licensed restaurants from using bar top seating if establishments follow proper social distancing or barriers in those locations. Many corner bars throughout Pennsylvania have extraordinarily little, if any, table seating. This would help the smallest locations survive.”