Pennsylvania restaurant file

Tables and chairs outside the Porch restaurant in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh on Thursday, July 9, 2020.

(The Center Square) – A group of 21 state senators from both parties urged Gov. Tom Wolf to lift remaining COVID-19 restrictions three days earlier for the benefit of businesses hoping to profit over the holiday weekend.

The lawmakers sent the letter to the administration Friday that read, in part, “as we look forward toward a brighter future, we must also acknowledge how much damage these restrictions have caused, as well as the pressing need to give these employers a boost to ensure their long-term survival.”

Moving the timeline up from Memorial Day to the Friday before, the letter concludes, would help ease the financial strain experienced across the state, particularly for the hard-hit hospitality industry.

“Unfortunately that date for lifting the restrictions is the end of the Memorial Day weekend – the unofficial kick off to summer,” said Sen. Scott Martin, R-Strasburg. “Moving this date to Friday, May 28, would give employers the ability to have such a great start to what we hope is going to be a full summer of recovery for both these employers and the people who work for them.” 

The Department of Health announced Monday that remaining mitigation orders on indoor and outdoor gatherings, capacity limits and social distancing requirements would be lifted on May 31 as vaccination rates across the state climb.

Universal masking will remain in place until 70% of residents are fully vaccinated, the department said.

“I don’t see any issue with the science or the data that would prohibit reopening these employers two day earlier,” Martin said. “There’s going to be a lot of people spending money on Memorial Day weekend. I would like them to be spending that money in Pennsylvania.”

Lyndsay Kensinger, a spokesperson for Wolf, told The Center Square on Friday the administration isn't considering a change in plans at the moment.

"We’re comfortable with Tuesday’s bipartisan task force announcement at this time," she said. "We will continue to monitor vaccination rates and evaluate dates accordingly. Lawmakers should help by encouraging all Pennsylvanians over age 16 to get vaccinated to help protect their communities."

 The Independent Fiscal Office said last month that the hospitality and leisure sector experienced a disproportionate amount of job loss throughout the pandemic as the administration’s mitigation measures targeted their operations as sources of community spread. 

IFO Executive Director Matthew Knittel said workforce for the sector declined 26.3% over the last year, compared to 5.4% across all other industries. Revenues likewise plummeted 55.1% for the sector, compared to just 32.6% for all others.

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania's General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.