Reopening Pennsylvania: State Lifts COVID Limits; Masks May Still Be Required

If you are fully vaccinated, it's now OK to grab some friends and go out to a jammed restaurant in suburban Pennsylvania.

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If you live in Pennsylvania -- outside of Philadelphia -- a day you have longed for is finally here: All statewide coronavirus-related capacity restrictions have been lifted as of 12:01 Monday.

However, if you haven't been fully vaccinated, you are still required to wear a mask in any public place. Also, many businesses still require masking.

And there are other rules that will stay in place for hospitals and other health care providers, including those that help the state track COVID-19 cases.

Also, the changes in Pennsylvania do not extend inside the city limits of Philadelphia. Officials there say they will lift capacity limits on June 2, and the indoor mask mandate is staying in place.

Starting Wednesday, all indoor capacity limits will be removed in the city's effort to reopen. NBC10's Danny Freeman spoke to restaurant owners to see how these changes are impacting business.

Still, the lifting of state capacity limits is a big deal particularly for suburban businesses, who have faced a year of shutdown and then strict limits on how many people could be inside their stores, bars and restaurants.

"It's a heavy weight off my shoulders," said Bob Ross, owner of Gypsy Blu in Ambler. He bought his restaurant in June 2020 and opened it July 23, 2020 -- a tough time for any business.

"I get emotional about it," Ross said of being able to seat as many customers as possible. "This is my life. This is my family's life. This is my employees' lives. So it's really exciting."

Here's what has changed, starting Monday:

  • Capacity restrictions on bars, restaurants and other businesses, as well as indoor and outdoor event gathering limits, have gone away. That means concert halls, sports stadiums and wedding venues could soon be packed for the first time since early 2020.
  • The state's order requiring people to wear masks remains in place for those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. It will stay in place until either June 28 or 70% of Pennsylvanians aged 18 and older are fully vaccinated, whichever is first.
  • The state now follows the CDC guidelines on masking, which say fully vaccinated people can go without masks unless required by their location. For example, travelers in airports and on planes are required to wear masks.
  • Municipalities and school districts can continue to impose their own restrictions, which is why Philadelphia's capacity limits remain in place until June 2.
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