On May 4th Governor Tom Wolf announced that beginning Monday, May 31, 2021, Pennsylvania will lift all COVID mitigation orders, with the exception of the masking order. The masking order will be lifted when 70% of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated. The announcement means that restaurants, bars, and other places of business would no longer be restricted to a percentage of capacity limits, although they are expected to comply with social distancing and other CDC guidance for their type of facility.
As restaurants and businesses are able to open at full capacity on May 31, there will no longer be restrictions when it comes to limits and distancing, but it may not be as easy as opening the front door. Issues relating to bringing back the necessary number of employees to the workplace and overcoming 15 months of investment into the mitigations that businesses have made will represent significant business management challenges. Patience on the part of customers will be needed as small businesses forge innovative paths toward the “new normal.”
In an additional announcement on May 11, 2021 percentages allowed for group gatherings will soon be changing. Effective May 17, 2021, maximum capacity limits for specific events and gatherings will be increased to 50% for indoor and 75% for outdoor (from the previous 25% and 50% respective limits). An event or gathering is defined as a temporary grouping of individuals for defined purposes, that takes place over a limited timeframe, such as hours or days. For example, events and gatherings include fairs, festivals, concerts or shows and groupings that occur within larger, more permanent businesses, such as shows or performances within amusements parks, individual showings of movies on a single screen/auditorium within a multiplex, business meetings or conferences, or each party or reception within a multiroom venue.
“As more Pennsylvania adults get vaccinated and guidance from the CDC evolves, we can continue to move forward with the commonwealth’s reopening efforts,” said Governor Wolf. “We recognize the significant strain businesses have faced during COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Throughout the last year and half, we have seen businesses continue to put the safety of their patrons first and I believe they will continue to do so even with this capacity increase.”
These updates will not prevent municipalities (i.e., Allegheny, Delaware and Philadelphia Counties) and school districts from continuing and implementing stricter mitigation efforts. For instance, Philadelphia County has announced plans to lift all mitigation orders except masking on June 11th; Delaware and Allegheny are still seeing significant numbers of new cases, potentially resulting in longer waits for mitigation orders to be lifted in these areas.
The Department of Health recommends that Pennsylvania business owners and their patrons continue to refer to CDC guidance and recommendations regarding ongoing COVID-19 safety measures and procedures. Click here for the most up-to-date guidance from the state for businesses.