What to Know
- Pennsylvania will be relaxing its COVID-19-related safety measures on businesses and public places in time for the unofficial start of summer. But, Philadelphia and other municipalities can lift rules on their own timeline.
- At 12:01 a.m. on May 31, all COVID restrictions will be lifted, the Wolf Administration said Tuesday. Mask wearing in public places will continue, however.
- The state continues to urge every person 16 and older to get a COVID-19 vaccine as 70% of the adult population must be vaccinated to lift the mask mandate.
All statewide coronavirus-related capacity restrictions in Pennsylvania will be lifted in time for Memorial Day -- with the exception of mask wearing in public -- though Philadelphia health officials said the city would stay with its current plan for lifting restrictions.
The elimination of COVID capacity limits and other restrictions on gatherings, restaurants and other Pennsylvania businesses will go into effect just after midnight on May 31, the Wolf Administration announced Tuesday.
Local municipalities and school districts will have the option to continue with their own restrictions, the state said.
At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Philadelphia Health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the city was not yet ready to lift all restrictions at the end of the month and would need to review plans in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Philadelphia has often delayed relaxing restrictions within city limits to prevent the spread of the virus among its dense population.
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The lifting of restrictions, which was reached by the Wolf Administration and the COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force, is predicated on the continued vaccination of most adults in the state.
Mandatory mask wearing in indoor and crowded outdoor spaces will remain in place until 70% of the adult population is full vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated don't need to wear a mask in all situations, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
“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,” Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam said.
To date, nearly 3.6 million people in Pennsylvania are fully vaccinated and just over half (50.6%) of the total population had received at least one dose of a vaccine, the health department said. Just looking at adults 18 and older, the percentage vaccinated stood at nearly 42% on Tuesday, according to federal data, while 63% had at least one dose.
NBC10's newsgathering partner KYW Newsradio first reported the plan to lift restrictions.
There are some other exceptions for coronavirus safety measures that will remain in place.
"Requirements such as testing and reporting new cases will remain in place for hospitals and long-term care facilities," the state said in a news release. "Maintaining requirements for hospitals and long-term care facilities will allow Pennsylvania to continue to closely monitor COVID-19 spread while lifting other restrictions."
Gov. Tom Wolf's latest COVID-19 disaster emergency order also remains in place, the state said.
The lifting of restrictions was celebrated by lawmakers:
“I’m thrilled after more than a year that we are able to lift these restrictions so that we can move to more normal life,” Washington County Republican's Rep. Tim O’Neal said. “This will help grow our economy and assist our small businesses that have sacrificed so much due to COVID-19."
“With millions of Pennsylvanians getting vaccinated, it’s time to plan the transition back to normal,” Democratic Sen. Art Haywood, who serves parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, said.
Tuesday's announcement promised relief for Pennsylvania's beleaguered restaurant industry, which has complained for months about capacity restrictions.
“The definitive timeline will allow owners and operators time to plan, but for far too many businesses who shuttered over the last few months, this announcement is too late,” said John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.