PENNSYLVANIA — Pennsylvania will lift all COVID-19 mitigation orders except for the mask mandate on Memorial Day, officials announced on Tuesday. That includes restrictions on businesses like bars and restaurants, capacity sizes for events, and more.
Further, the state announced, the mask mandate will be gone once 70 percent of Pennsylvania’s adult population is fully vaccinated.
“With millions of Pennsylvanians getting vaccinated, it’s time to plan the transition back to normal,” said State Sen. Art Haywood, a member of the bipartisan task force that advises vaccine policy. “Hospitalizations and deaths are down. This action today is a key step forward.”
Currently, the state’s mask mandate requires face coverings when within 6 feet of someone not in your household.
As of Tuesday, the state has administered a first dose of the vaccine to more than 50 percent of the eligible population.
“We continue to make significant progress in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and as more Pennsylvania adults get vaccinated and guidance from the CDC evolves, we can continue to move forward with our reopening efforts,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said in a statement.
The Tuesday announcement was welcomed by industry groups, like the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, who also argued that it had come too late.
“The definitive timeline will allow owners and operators time to plan,” John Longstreet, CEO of the PRLA, said in a statement, noting further stimulus was needed for the recovering hospitality industry. “But for far too many businesses who shuttered over the last few months, this announcement is too late.”
While the decision from the state opens the door for municipalities, counties, and school districts to also loosen their own requirements, it does not necessarily mean they will do so.
Indeed, Philadelphia is a notable example of a place that did not follow the state’s loosening of capacity limitations on bars and restaurants and other mitigation orders earlier in the spring, as cases were not decreasing in the city at the time.
Despite going through what has been called a “fourth wave” in March and April, numbers have been steadily improving in Pennsylvania over the past two weeks. The state’s percent positivity rate dropped a full point over the past week, from 8.6 to 7.6 percent.