Pennsylvania plans to repeal its 19 mitigation orders on Remembrance Day, and Gov. Tom Wolfe said the state’s camouflage order will be dropped after 70 percent of Pennsylvanians ages 18 and older are fully vaccinated.
Mitigation measures that remain in place until Remembrance Day include capacity limits for restaurants, theaters, indoor and outdoor spaces for events and other businesses.
As of Tuesday morning, about 32.4 percent of all Pennsylvania residents had been fully vaccinated and about 50 percent had been partially vaccinated, according to the Department of Health. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that about 20.6 percent (about 2.6 million) of the state̵
“We continue to make significant progress in combating the spread of covid-19, and as more adults in Pennsylvania are vaccinated and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are developed, we can continue to move forward with our efforts to resume “Said Acting Secretary of Health in Pennsylvania Alison Beam.
Last week, the department updated its mask mandate to match the CDC’s announcement that those who are fully vaccinated can visit without masks with other fully vaccinated people indoors and unvaccinated people outdoors.
Requirements for testing and reporting new cases will remain in place for hospitals and long-term care facilities, Beam said, and lifting mitigation measures will not prevent individual municipalities and school districts from having their own, stricter guidelines.
Dr. Amesh Adalya, an expert in infectious diseases and emergency medicine based in Pittsburgh, said the 70% vaccination rate for Wolfe would be difficult but feasible.
“I think it will be a challenge as we hit a wall in terms of vaccine absorption,” he said. “I think it’s something to strive for. I think linking the end of the mask’s mandate to such an indicator – it shows people what a post-pandemic world might look like and what the benefits of a high level of vaccination would be. ”
Adalia, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said she believed it was safe to remove other state mitigation measures. He cited Israel, which saw a drastic drop in deaths and the number of new daily deaths after reaching a vaccination rate of about 40%.
He said that so far the vaccine has achieved its main goal: to eliminate the virus’s ability to cause serious illness, hospitalization and death, or to jeopardize hospital capacity.
“I think the risk has been low enough for some time,” he said.
The hospitality industry, hit hard by the pandemic, expects the restrictions to be lifted completely in months. In Pennsylvania, restaurants are able to operate at 75% capacity if they self-certify mitigation measures and continue to adhere to those measures from April. Otherwise the capacity is limited to 50%.
Some in the industry have expressed cautious optimism and disappointment as they now face a new challenge: staff shortages.
“It should be great, but on the other hand, we’re all in the same boat looking for employees,” said Joe Kolek, owner of the Anchor Inn and Bar in Harrison. “Opening up full force and not being able to serve your customers will be another challenge right now, but it is moving in the right direction.”
Kolek said he hoped Wolf’s message would be read as an indication that the risk of the virus was declining, making employees more comfortable returning to work.
“The more people get vaccinated, the more comfortable there is in society that they feel better when they go out,” he said.
Sam Siber, owner of Sam’s Wall Tavern in Apsinuol, said he has been trying to hire full staff for months. He blamed additional unemployment benefits for people who do not want to return to work.
“It’s good, but you can’t find anyone to work for,” he told Wolf. “So it doesn’t help me at all until they get rid of that extra money they give everyone.”
Despite the shortage of staff, Sieber said he believes customers are ready and willing to return to restaurants with maximum capacity.
“With the vaccines and everything else, they are ready to come out,” he said.
This story will be updated.