Allegheny County’s top public health official is telling residents to give the cold shoulder to businesses that refuse to comply with Pennsylvania’s new COVID-19 restrictions.
Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf announced a raft of new mitigation efforts—including size limits on gatherings and a three-week ban on indoor dining at bars and restaurants. Wolf issued the new public health order as coronavirus infection rates surge across the state, threatening to overwhelm medical systems.
Some Pennsylvanians are openly defying these public health measures—including the owner of Crack’d Egg in Brentwood. On Saturday, the restaurant’s Facebook posted photos of a full dining room, along with the caption, “We sold out of Bacon, sausage, steak, ham, pancakes, cheesy, potato pancakes, wheat, rye!!! …TOGETHER we stand and fight back the tyranny.”
Opposition to mitigation restrictions was anticipated, and is perhaps partly why Wolf waited as long as he did to implement additional mitigation measures.
Allegheny County’s health department, one of many state and local agencies tasked with enforcing these restrictions, reports that it has so far received about 250 complaints against businesses for supposed violations.
“We can’t constantly watch or monitor, every restaurant, every gym, every gathering or event to make sure people are following the rules,” said department Director Dr. Debra Bogen. “We rely on you residents to patronize businesses that follow the rules and shun those that do not.”
While county inspectors can issue fines or suspend operating permits, they lack the ability to force non-compliant businesses to immediately close.
“If a business refuses to comply with that order, the health department may work through the courts for further enforcement,” said Bogen.
The impact of the state’s additional restrictions won’t be seen until late December or January. As was the case earlier in the pandemic, it takes at least a couple weeks for infections to begin to plateau after mitigation is implemented. After the rate of new infections starts to slow, it is usually an additional week or more before hospitalizations and deaths follow suit.
Local case numbers, hospitalizations and fatalities continue to climb. December is on track to be the deadliest month yet for COVID-19 deaths in Allegheny County; 94 people have died so far, including 16 people under the age of 65.