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Pitt researcher: Alcohol decision critical to slowing COVID-19 in Allegheny County

PITTSBURGH — The short-lived days of drinking a beer in a bar are once again over in Allegheny County.

In an effort to stop rapidly rising coronavirus cases, the health department banned the sale of on-site alcohol as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.

It’s a move that’s angered bar owners.

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“I just don’t understand how people sitting at a table can order food but not a beer,” said Mike Manning, the owner of Archie’s.

Experts point to a lack of social distancing and mask wearing at bars, but Pitt social epidemiologist Christina Mair said the impact alcohol can have on a person’s decision making is also key.

“I’m going to go to a bar, just have one drink and I’m going to wear my mask if I’m not actively drinking a beer. Once you start drinking and alcohol myopia kicks in, people tend to forget those plans,” Mair said.

The county health department said bars in the South Side and Oakland have become hot spots. Mair believes the closures could have long term benefits in reducing coronavirus cases.

But it could take weeks before the effect of the decision is reflected in the numbers.

“What you do now you’re going to start seeing two weeks from now. In terms of hospitalizations, you’re going to see it four weeks from now. You really have to be what feels like acting prematurely sometimes because you can’t wait and react once things are bad enough,” Mair said.

To-go cocktails will still be allowed throughout the closure. However, several business owners tell Channel 11 that may not be enough to keep them open during this difficult time.