Delco Will Crack Down on Problem Bars, Restaurants After Spike in Virus Cases Among Young People

In this July 1, 2020, file photo, a bartender pours a beer while wearing a mask and face shield amid the coronavirus pandemic at Slater's 50/50 in Santa Clarita, Calif.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Delaware County is still seeing new cases of the coronavirus, and leaders blame young people going to bars and restaurants where social distancing is not possible or loosely enforced.

The county council is warning that bars and restaurants not in compliance with CDC and state guidance could be shut down to prevent further spread that could push the county back to the "yellow" phase of restrictions. Every county in Pennsylvania is currently in the "green" phase.

County officials and the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement were out in the county this weekend inspecting establishments. So far, two citations have been handed out, Councilwoman Monica Taylor said.

"If you show up at an establishment and you see that there’s no way that you can go in there and social distance, that there’s nobody in there wearing a mask, don’t go in. Just don’t do it," Councilwoman Elaine Paul Schaefer said. "Help our community and help by reporting places like that.”

In April, young people made up about 5 percent of the county's positive tests. In July, after bars had been open a few weeks, that age group made up 15 percent of positives.

The county reported 21 new cases Thursday, bringing the total to 7,496 since the start of the pandemic. 705 people have died in the county from virus.

“I’m sure many people when the green phase came to be, wanted to rush out, and young people wanted to see their friends and they wanted to live life like they normally lived it," Schaefer said. "But the fact of the matter is, the reality is we are not there yet.”

“Green does not mean that COVID-19 is no longer a threat,” Councilwoman Christine Reuther said.

She spoke about Allegheny County as a cautionary tale. Leaders there reopened but then closed their bars and restaurants amid a spike in cases. Contact tracing there showed that a high portion of new cases, particularly in young people, came from bars, Reuther said.

“What we are seeing in the southeast,” Reuther said, “is that a lot of these cases are being traced back to the Jersey Shore and again in that cohort where they’re going out at night. They’re going out to bars and they’re partying like it’s 2019, I guess.”

Schaefer said many young people have been responsible, but remained concerned about the spread nonetheless. Officials later reminded that while state guidelines allow socially distanced bar seating, customers were not permitted to stand around a bar.

“A crowded bar, as we’ve heard from our nation’s top public health advisers, is one of the most dangerous places to be in the United States right now, in terms of contracting and spreading the virus,” Schaefer said.

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