March 16, 2020
All bars and dine-in restaurants in the four suburban Philadelphia counties must close at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered late Sunday night.
The action is his latest attempt to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in Pennsylvania.
Businesses that offer carry-out, delivery and drive-through options may continue to operate such services, but otherwise all establishments must temporarily close for 14 days in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. The order also impacts Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh.
But Philly establishments may remain open.
The order comes after Wolf urged the establishments in recent days to close on their own volition as part of his recommended social distancing efforts. But many ignored his request.
Businesses that do not adhere to the policy could face enforcement actions, state officials said.
"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," Wolf said in a statement.
Earlier Sunday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against holding gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks. That includes sporting events, concerts, wedding events, parades, festivals and concerts. It does not apply to schools or businesses.
"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."
Pennsylvania had 63 coronavirus cases through noon on Sunday – the latest update from the Department of Health. Montgomery County had the highest total, with 24 cases. Delaware County had seven cases, Bucks County had four cases and Chester County had two.
Philadelphia officials announced at 1 p.m. that the city's COVID-19 case total had doubled to eight. But city officials have resisted calls by residents to close bars and restaurants.
"This is a hyper-local situation," Managing Director Brian Abernathy said. "And I think we are continuously balancing how do we maintain social order as well as make sure people are protected.
"I think the mayor's point yesterday about continuing to go to our businesses was really about ... again, maintaining social distancing. If you're sick, don't go out. And if you're afraid of being sick, you shouldn't go out."
Mayor Jim Kenney, who was not at the press conference, later acknowledged that the city's bars were packed on Saturday night. But he also pushed back against calls to close them.
"We know that bars were crowded last night, and we hear your concerns," Kenney tweeted. "The greatest threat comes from close contact. Please practice good respiratory hygiene to lessen that risk. We are continuing balance many factors, including health and social well-being."