Pennsylvania will lift its coronavirus mitigation measures on Memorial Day, state officials announced Tuesday, marking a milestone in the pandemic recovery and freeing businesses and patrons to prepare to fill restaurants, bars, and stores for the first time in more than a year.
Philadelphia, however, was not yet set to follow suit: The city will said it will review the state’s policy but retain its own restrictions. Officials are working on the city’s reopening plans.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health announcement keeps in place the requirement for Pennsylvanians to wear masks in compliance with state and CDC guidelines. It also gives residents an incentive to get COVID-19 shots: Masking will be required until 70% of the state’s 18-and-older population is vaccinated.
Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, called the announcement “the long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel and a return to sense of ‘normalcy.’”
The news came one day after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that the Garden State will fully reopen May 19, but with masking and social distancing requirements still in place. New York and Connecticut are following the same plan, and Delaware Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday that his state will lift most of its restrictions May 21.
Pennsylvania’s changes mean that on May 31, restaurants, bars, stores, salons, gyms, theaters, event venues, nightclubs, and other businesses can open at 100% capacity, and crowd-size limits will be lifted on all indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Schools will no longer be required to report their coronavirus prevention measures to the state. Cleaning, sanitizing, and distancing mandates for business owners are also lifted, though the Department of Health encouraged all to follow CDC guidance.
“As more Pennsylvania adults get vaccinated and guidance from the CDC evolves, we can continue to move forward with our reopening efforts,” acting Secretary Health Alison Beam said in a statement.
Philadelphia officials said they will look at Pennsylvania’s and New Jersey’s policies. Health Commissioner Thomas Farley also indicated the city may not lift its masking requirement when 70% of the adult population is vaccinated, saying health officials would first “see what is happening with the epidemic.”
The full reopening comes more than a year since the first coronavirus-related restrictions were put in place, and after the pandemic has had an immeasurable impact on businesses, many of which have suffered or shuttered.
Bucks County Commissioner Bob Harvie said he was glad the state’s residents now had a date to look forward to.
“The toll it has taken on our communities, our region and our country will impact us for years to come,” he said.