The Allegheny County Health Department is pleading with bars and restaurants to continue following state and local regulations aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
A chief complaint cited by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Restaurant and Tavern Association is that these establishments are only allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity. Some of the association's members are threatening to defy these orders, and instead only adhere to federal guidelines.
“It is a critical time ... We really need to support our return to education, and the more community spread we have the harder that will be," said Dr. Debra Bogen, head of the county health department, at a Wednesday press conference. “From our public health perspective [disregarding guidelines] would be a huge nightmare for us all.”
Many proprietors say these regulations prohibit them from making a profit. They argue they can safely serve a higher volume of customers while adhering to physical distancing and masking requirements.
County data continues to show that bars and restaurants are the number one location people report visiting prior to testing positive for the coronavirus. Case investigators find that parties are another common location.
Bogen says limits on bars and restaurants have led to a drop in the infection rate, which spiked dramatically in late June and early July. This past week the county’s weekly average of new daily coronavirus cases was under 100 for the first time in more than a month.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald echoed Bogen’s sentiments, saying the drop in infections show that the regulations are working, which has enabled many businesses to continue operations.
“[These regulations] allowed us to keep retail, manufacturing, construction, automotive, salons, hair, gyms, et cetera, et cetera, open,” Fitzgerald said. "We cannot have people just going rogue."
Despite the decline in cases, Bogen says numbers are still too high, and that people who are not following public health guidelines need to get on board.
“Cases have been identified in nearly every neighborhood and municipality in our county,” Bogen said. “People are getting sick and unfortunately many have died.”
Since the start of the pandemic more than 270 people have died from COVID-19 in Allegheny County. Statewide there have been nearly 7,400 fatalities.