By Russ Walker/ PA Post
We’re sick of social distancing. We want to meet our friends at the local bar or take the kids to the water park. A summer without baseball is no summer at all for many Americans. And then there’s the unemployed. They want to get back to work. Businesses want to get back to serving customers.
Coronavirus has other plans. That’s the takeaway from the past week’s news of the virus’s continued spread, both here in Pennsylvania and across the country.
Allegheny County and much of western Pa. were not hit as hard by coronavirus as Philly and its collar counties. Pittsburgh was the first big city to make the transition to the yellow and green phases of Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus reopening plan. Over the weekend, though, the number of infections began to climb there, and Allegheny County is beginning to move in the wrong direction … and reimposing some restrictions, as PublicSource reports here.
One step: Banning the consumption of alcohol at restaurants and bars, effective tomorrow at 5 p.m. But as of Sunday evening, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, “there were no imminent plans to move the county back into the yellow phase — with more restrictive requirements for businesses — as the result of the sharp increase in the number of cases,” according to the county’s top health official. County officials also say people are bringing the virus home with them after taking vacations, so they’re urging people who leave the region to quarantine for 14 days when they return.
Bars are a focus, WESA reports, because health experts believe they “are key locations for transmission of the disease,” WESA reports. “Case numbers began rising two weeks after bars and restaurants were permitted to operate as the county entered the green phase of reopening from the pandemic shutdown.”
It’s interesting to note that far away in Texas, the governor says he now regrets that he allowed bars to reopen so soon. “If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting,” said Gov. Greg Abbot (R) on Friday. Texas has reported 5,000 new infections per day for six days straight. The virus is spreading quickly in Florida, too. And like Texas, the governor there blames it on younger people going out and socializing.
The good news: There’s a simple step we can all take to slow the spread of coronavirus — wearing a face mask. As the Wall Street Journal notes: “There is widespread scientific and medical consensus that face masks are a key part of the public policy response for tackling the pandemic. While only medical-grade N95 masks can filter tiny viral particles and prevent catching the virus, medical experts say even handmade or cheap surgical masks can block the droplets emitted by speaking, coughing and sneezing, making it harder for an infected wearer to spread the virus.”
Vice President Mike Pence, on a trip to Texas this weekend, urged people to wear masks. “The governor and I talked [last] week. We talked about [the] importance of people — in this moment — of calling on people across Texas to wear a mask,” Pence said. “It’s an important message. We’re here to convey it.”
PA Post is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom covering politics and policy in Pennsylvania. For more, go to PaPost.org.