PA Indoor Dining Ban Should Be Extended: White House Task Force

HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania needs additional coronavirus mitigation measures, including an extension on the indoor dining ban, the White House Coronavirus Task Force said in its most recent report, issued Jan. 10.

The report recommends “aggressive mitigation” to combat the latest surge, which the task force said has resulted in nearly twice the rate of rise of cases as the spring and summer surges.

“This acceleration and the epidemiologic data suggest the possibility that some strains of the US COVID-19 virus may have evolved into a more transmissible virus. Given that possibility, and the presence of the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities and may be 50 percent more transmissible, we must be ready for and mitigate a much more rapid transmission,” according to the report, made public by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The report recommends a ban on indoor dining and “other high-risk indoor activities” be implemented until at least Jan 25, after MLK Day and Inauguration Day “to avoid gathering during these events,” the report said.

“Aggressive mitigation must be used to match a more aggressive virus,” the report said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the task force’s recommendations.

Pennsylvania instituted new mitigation orders on Dec. 12, including a ban on indoor dining and more strict limits on gathering sizes. Those mandates expired on Jan. 4.

Additional measures recommended for Pennsylvania in the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s Jan. 10 report include:

  • The State Correctional Institution at Dallas should prohibit guest visitation of inmates and test correctional officers and workers for COVID, as those who are symptomatic can still spread the disease.
  • Pennsylvania should not delay the rapid immunization of those over 65 and vulnerable to severe disease. No vaccines should be in freezers but should instead be put in arms now.
  • Enhanced surveillance (quantitative wastewater, routine testing of at-risk individuals, and genomic surveillance) will provide early warning of local increases in transmission and emergence/spread of viral variants.
  • In areas where hospitals are stretched (or forecasted to be stretched in the near future), ensure nearby long term care facilities are sufficiently capacitated to help off-load chronic patients, with resources to upgrade to skilled nursing as needed.
  • Ensure all schools and IHEs that are planning to reopen have the resources and plans to test all students and teachers, including those without symptoms, and protocols to monitor and enforce face-masking and distancing.

As of Friday, Pennsylvania reported 6,047 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 754,611. There have been 18,957 deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

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