Governor announces restaurants allowed to return to 50% indoor capacity on September 21st

Governor Tom Wolf today announced that restaurants may return to an indoor occupancy to 50 percent starting September 21st. That just happens to coincide with the start of Conshohocken Restaurant Week presented by Sunrise Power & Gas. The two-week restaurant promotion features 16 restaurants and will run through October 4th.

In addition to announcing the September 21st date, the governor also announced that restaurants will be able to self-certify through a public and searchable state database that confirms the restaurant’s commitment to follow the state’s guidance.

“While our aggressive and appropriate mitigation efforts have kept case counts low, we must continue to take important steps to protect public health and safety as we head into the fall. At the same time, we must also support the retail food services industry that has struggled throughout this pandemic,” Gov. Wolf said. “The self-certification ensures that restaurants can expand indoor operations and commit to all appropriate orders so that employees and customers alike can be confident they are properly protected.”

In mid-July Governor Wolf reduced from 50% to 25% the indoor capacity of restaurants and bars. This was after operating for about two weeks at 50% capacity once Pennsylvania entered the green phase of reopening during the pandemic.

When this was announced, Governor Wolf cited data that indicated restaurants and bars were a source of spread of Coronavirus. CBS21 sought the data at that time and the governor declined to provide it.

CBS21 did receive some data last week, but Wolf also commented that data was only “a very small part” of the reasoning used to limit restaurants to 25% indoor occupancy.

The data provided to CBS21 doesn’t specifically line up with Wolf’s mid-July announcement of returning to 25% indoor occupancy, but its the only data the state has provided on the issue. From CBS21:

Between July 13 and August 11, there were 24,468 positive cases statewide. Less than half told contact tracers if they spent time at a business before an onset of symptoms. Out of that number, 13 percent, or 1,499 of cases said yes with 47 percent going out to a restaurant and 24 percent to a bar.

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Photo: Commonwealth of PA