By Christen Smith | The Center Square
The latest round of COVID-19 restrictions helped slow Pennsylvania’s skyrocketing infection rate, health officials said Monday, though residents must “stay the course” to see rules relaxed in the coming year.
“It’s critically important to continue our mitigation efforts and really not to get together in gatherings on New Years Eve or New Years Day,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. “We want to make sure the current plateau and even decrease that we are seeing continues in the new year.”
Levine’s comments come two weeks after Gov. Tom Wolf authorized a temporary ban on indoor dining and alcohol sales amid an alarming spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations. That number dipped below 6,000 this week as the statewide testing positivity rate fell another half point to 15.1 percent.
While the downward trend is positive news, Levine said the state will not lift restrictions ahead of the current Jan. 4, 2021, expiration date. She said her office will advise Wolf about how to proceed after the ban lifts.
“We know how severe this virus can be,” she said. “It’s really important that we stand together, stand united and stay the course.”
Wolf said the restrictions, although difficult for many restaurants and bars to bear, would lessen the burden on health care facilities and save lives until a vaccine is more widely available.
More than 73,000 health care workers have been immunized over the last two weeks, Levine said. CVS and Walgreens also began a statewide effort to vaccinate residents in nursing homes and personal care facilities on Monday.
In the meantime, Levine urged compliance with the ongoing restrictions. Hundreds of establishments received warnings from state agencies last week to shut down, though defiance of the public health mandates continues.
“I worry for their health,” Levine said. “I think they are exposing themselves, their families, their loved ones, their staff at the facilities. They are putting their community at risk for continuing the spread of COVID-19.”Department of Health says Pennsylvania COVID-19 cases waning after latest restrictions