More Covid-19 Restrictions Ahead for PA?
November 18, 2020
There is no question that Pennsylvania and the entire country face a resurgence of Covid-19 in the months ahead: cases have spiked and already a number of states have sounded alarm bells about the availability of hospital beds.
What will that mean in Pennsylvania?
One thing it is unlikely to mean is return to the sort of near-lockdown we saw in the spring. Governor Tom Wolf almost certainly has no desire to fight that battle again, and legislative Republicans who opposed his moves are convinced that their solid showing in this month’s election indicates widespread public opposition to any sweeping measures. The evidence for this is scant, since Republicans captured only a handful of heavily pro-Trump districts while defending their incumbents, but it is the dominant view among Republicans in Harrisburg.
We are much more likely to see city and county measures to limit crowds and further curtail indoor dining. Philadelphia officials have already suggested that they may soon return to an effective ban on indoor bars and restaurants. Few who have spent a winter in Philadelphia imagine that any but the most determined drinkers will be much interested in outdoor options in the months ahead.
Schools seem likely to remain a mixed bag, with the key factor being size as much as the local extent of the pandemic or prevailing attitudes in the community. Smaller schools, whether a rural high school or a non-public school in the suburbs, can far more easily adapt to the crisis by insisting on social distancing and ensuring that rooms are regularly disinfected than can large school districts with thousands of students in several buildings. Schools in the City of Pittsburgh, for example, have already announced that there will be no in-person classes until January while those in Philadelphia have not been open since March.
Both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are major centers for medical research and home to a notable number of large hospitals, which should largely insulate those regions from any surge in hospitalizations. The same in not true in most of rural Pennsylvania, where both doctors and hospitals are in short supply.
Recent weeks have brought promising news about vaccines, and medical researchers to whom I spoke believe that a massive effort to produce and distribute an effective vaccine could be well underway early next year, with wide distribution by April.
Until then, the reality remains that the pandemic has reshaped life in Pennsylvania—as in forty-nine other state s—and will continue to do so long into 2021.