On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced restaurants across Pennsylvania will be allowed to reopen at 50% indoor capacity starting Sept. 21, according to a statement released by his office. Capacity was previously set at 25%.
While this decision could benefit restaurants in the commonwealth, the restaurants shouldn’t open at such a high indoor capacity in Centre County.
Centre County has seen an increase in cases after students returned to campus. In fact, the county was recently moved to the “substantial transmission” category on Pennsylvania’s coronavirus dashboard.
Considering this, it seems to be the worst time to reopen restaurants at a 50% indoor capacity in the county.
In a county that houses a large college town like Penn State, it could be dangerous to assume 50% capacity will remain at 50%, and that the 50% admitted will remain socially distanced the entire time.
According to Wolf’s statement, criteria that self-certified restaurants must meet to host patrons are as followed:
- A list of requirements containing the current restaurant industry guidelines and enforcements
- A statement confirming the business owner has reviewed and agrees to the requirements
- The restaurant’s maximum indoor capacity based on the fire code
- A statement stating the owner understands the penalties of defying the requirements
Another addition to Wolf’s most recent guideline states “restaurants that serve alcohol must now close sales by 10 p.m.,” according to the statement.
If a “private club” is serving occupants dine-in food and alcohol in a non-event setting, they would qualify as restaurants under Wolf’s guidelines.
If the “club” self-certifies, it can increase to 50% capacity during normal operations. However, bar seating is still forbidden, according to a FAQ document released after Wolf’s announcement.
Ultimately, as Centre County faces an increase in coronavirus cases, it is of the utmost importance that the county handles the pandemic with the people in mind. The community must seek to find a balance between keeping community members healthy and helping businesses stay afloat during a difficult time.
For now, the increased capacity seems like it would do more harm than good for the community. We can only hope case numbers in the county decrease so increased capacities would be possible with little impact on the community’s safety.
Daily Collegian Opinion Editor Ashley Hayford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.