As the county prepares to enter the least-restrictive “green” phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan on Friday, Bucks County health officials warn that repeated failure to follow social distancing restrictions could get a bar or restaurant shut down.
Done properly, the re-opening of indoor dining at restaurants and bars this week will be a welcome social outlet for cooped-up residents, said Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Health Department. But, he added, it can also be “one of the highest-risk activities allowed when we are in green if people aren’t careful.”
To that end, Damsker’s inspectors will be focusing extra attention on bars and bar areas in restaurants in coming weeks to ensure and enforce compliance.
“We know how tough it has been for many restaurants and bars that were closed” for three months during Wolf’s restrictions, Damsker said. The strict enforcement is to make sure that they don’t spark COVID outbreaks that could get them, and other newly reopened businesses, shut down again.
“We know there are current outbreaks happening in other states from these activities, as there were here in Bucks County before the restrictions were put in place,” Damsker said.
Standing in a bar area will not be permitted, and no more than four customers who have a common relationship may sit together at a bar. Such groups will have to be physically distanced from other groups, and more than four people seated at a table will not be allowed. Customers who are standing should not be served.
Wait staff, hosts and other staff must wear either masks or face shields. Gloves or frequent handwashing by staff will be required, as will frequent cleaning of high-touch areas.
Any bar or restaurant found to be operating unsafely will be warned initially and given guidance, Damsker said. But establishments that repeatedly violate COVID-19 safety guidelines could face suspension of their liquor licenses.
“As always, we want to work with the facilities,” he said. “We want to make sure we go out there and educate to ensure they are fully aware. At the same time, we are not going to put up with repeated violations for something that could cause a spike in cases throughout the county.”
As the move to green approaches, Bucks County’s number of new infections continued to remain low over the past three days, averaging about 14 active cases per day since Saturday.
Ten new infections were reported Saturday, along with three delayed reports that no longer are infectious. Daily reporting was not done on Sunday. The two-day combined total for Sunday and Monday showed 31 new cases and two delayed reports no longer considered infectious.
No deaths resulting from COVID-19 were reported over the three-day span.
Of the 46 total cases, 20 resulted from household contacts, seven are residents or workers at long-term care facilities, five were travel-related or out-of-state exposures, four were attributed to community spread, two were infected in workplaces, one is a prison inmate, one was infected in a healthcare setting and six were unable to be interviewed immediately.
Seventy-seven Bucks County COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, 12 of them in critical condition and on ventilators. Of 5,255 total cases confirmed during the pandemic, 502 have resulted in deaths, 403 of them long-term care facility residents, while 3,090 patients are now confirmed to have recovered.
Statistics, charts and other coronavirus-related information can be found on the county’s data portal: https://covid19-bucksgis.hub.arcgis.com. An interactive Bucks County map showing numbers of active infections by municipality can be found here.