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Pennsylvania’s coronavirus cases doubled over the weekend to 63 as the infection spread to new counties in central and western parts of the state.
Gov. Tom Wolf subsequently ordered restaurants and bars in five counties – Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery – to shut down as of Monday. He said establishments can still offer takeout, delivery and drive-thru service.
“Ensuring the health and safety of Pennsylvanians is the highest priority as the state grapples with a growing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, and as the virus continues to spread, it is in the best interest of the public to encourage social distancing by closing restaurants and bars temporarily,” he said. “I understand that this is disruptive to businesses as well as patrons who just want to enjoy themselves, but in the best interest of individuals and families in the mitigation counties, we must take this step.”
The order follows pleas from the administration for nonessential businesses in the same counties to close amid the spread of COVID-19. No word has emerged yet on whether the administration will expand the closures to the rest of the state, though the governor did mandate that public schools shut down through March 27 and encouraged residents to practice social distancing. The state Capitol in Harrisburg is also closed to the public, and most staff has been told to work from home, if possible.
“Social distancing is essential as more Pennsylvanians are testing positive for COVID-19,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “By taking these steps now, we can protect public health and slow the spread of this virus.”
As of Monday, the state has tested 446 people for the virus, with 205 negative results, 63 positives and 183 still pending.
The Legislature will return to session Monday to pass emergency response bills to help the state cope with the growing epidemic.