Today, the Allegheny County Health Department responded to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases by suspending on-site alcohol consumption in all county bars and restaurants.
Dr. Debra L. Bogen, the director of the Allegheny County Health Department, made the announcement during a press conference, noting that 96 new cases in Allegheny County were reported today alone, reflecting a rapid increase in cases from the last few days.
“The consumption of alcohol inside bars, restaurants, night clubs and the like is particularly concerning to me,” Dr. Bogen says. “Drinking alcohol in these settings invites people to congregate, and the six feet we are supposed to keep from one another disappears. When people drink alcohol, they tend to lose inhibition, talk louder, get closer to one another and can’t adhere to the physical distancing and mask requirements.”
Dr. Bogen went on to say that a clear pattern among cases in the past week has come from people visiting local bars and restaurants, where many reported that masks were not worn by patrons and staff.
Restaurants and bars will continue to be able to offer dine-in service, however alcohol cannot be consumed or served on the premises. To-go cocktails are still permitted, but cannot be consumed on-site.
Masks at all businesses are also now required, which includes restaurants when seated at tables and not eating.
The order is effective Tuesday, June 30 at 5:00 p.m.
Dr. Bogen noted that many of these increased cases come from young people, many of whom have recently traveled out of state, with nightlife, family gatherings and group events.
“I don’t take these actions lightly, and I do so fully cognisant of the actions they will have on our county’s economy,” Dr. Bogen says. “Our case investigators over the last week have heard many new cases that they have traveled out of state, often to hot spots across the country like Florida, Texas, the beaches along the Carolinas, and recently visited bars, particularly in the South Side and Oakland.”
Dr. Bogen does not recommend returning to a general shut down, because she says that the county now has adequate PPE for medical personal, more testing available, and has a better understanding of how to treat cases. “Instead we need a strategic and selective approach to identify the sources of the infections, and shut them down, and limit visits to these locations or events,” Dr. Bogen says.