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From PA Chamber of Business & Industry
On July 15th, Governor Tom Wolf and Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine issued new mitigation orders – namely on dining and entertainment establishments throughout the Commonwealth – in response to a recent increase of COVID-19 cases in certain areas of Pennsylvania. The restrictions include a requirement that dining facilities must offer sit-down, dine-in meals to remain open and that they limit indoor dining to 25 percent capacity; that indoor events cannot exceed 25 persons and outdoor events 250 persons; and that businesses continue to allow for telework, when possible; among other orders.
Following this announcement, PA Chamber President Gene Barr issued a statement expressing the business community’s concerns about the impact of these new orders on many employers. Many of the impacted businesses are small businesses that have invested and planned for months to ensure their safe re-opening with adherence to the CDC and state-issued health guidelines – including wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing.
“While we understand the need to implement mitigation tactics that will control the spread of COVID-19, today’s announcement by the Wolf Administration is yet another setback for so many businesses statewide,” Barr said. “Earlier this week, our state’s health secretary admitted that while there has been a recent rise in COVID-19 cases in some areas of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth isn’t ‘anywhere near’ to the situation we faced in the spring. She went on to say that higher case counts were the result of more testing and that ‘no more restrictions on business’ were being contemplated; yet today we learn that more restrictions are being placed on dining and entertainment establishments.”
“According to the Wolf Administration, the recent increase in cases is localized and is a result of people not adhering to masking and distancing guidelines. Many counties have been stable for a long period and some have seen only a single digit total during the entire course of the pandemic. This begs the question – why is an overly prescriptive, blanket mandate being enforced upon Pennsylvania’s business community in response to a situation that is only occurring in certain pockets of the state? Yet again, businesses must comply with an order that has been handed down without notice, and which leaves them with more questions than they have answers.”
“Rather than place further restrictions on these businesses – which will likely result in the closure, perhaps permanently, for many of them – we should utilize that enforcement action against those who refuse to comply with the safety protocols that we all know by now will keep our communities healthier – including hand washing, social distancing and wearing face masks. In fact, our organization encourages enforcement action against businesses and individual patrons who are violating the guidelines and have been calling for more enforcement against those whose irresponsible actions imperil the health, jobs, and businesses of others.”
“Our organization has been in constant contact with our broad-based membership since COVID-19 was first reported in Pennsylvania, to ensure we understand their most pressing needs and questions surrounding this situation; and we have consistently asked state government officials to describe the end result that is desired and to let businesses figure out the most effective, efficient ways of getting that result. Our state’s employers are among the best in the world. They have been diligent in working to navigate and comply with the health and safety protocols that are a hallmark of the pandemic era; and they’ve been quick to innovate in order to keep their doors open and their workers employed.”
“We all want to control the spread of the virus while balancing the needs of Pennsylvanians to live productive lives. Unfortunately, today’s order is a major setback in our collective efforts to bring Pennsylvania back.”