Virus Outbreak Pennsylvania

People gather June 28, 2020, at the Porch restaurant in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

(The Center Square) – As the COVID-19 delta variant spikes cases nationwide, one Pennsylvania hospitality trade group signed onto the immunization effort as the state trails its 70% statewide goal.

"Remember the shutdowns, the massive layoffs, and business closures? The hospitality industry is starting a slow recovery process and PA Restaurant & Lodging Association (PRLA) wants to keep the momentum going by doing its part for public health,” said Lorraine Gimblett, a spokesperson for the association.

She said the PRLA began partnering with health care providers to host pop-up vaccine clinics at street fairs, festivals and local barbecues last month.

Two more events will occur Aug. 1 at the Masjid Al-Madinah Islamic Center and Don Pedro’s Grocery Store in Upper Darby. The Fatima Outreach Center in Bensalem will host its own clinic that same day with a fourth scheduled for Aug. 6 in Clark Park in Philadelphia. Gimblett said more clinics will be added “daily.”

“Not only will these efforts increase the number of vaccinated people – AKA guests at restaurants, bars, and hotels – but also protect hospitality workers and business owners as masking indoors is largely not required,” she said.

Bars and restaurants bore the brunt of the economic impact of Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic mitigations with bans on indoor dining and late-night alcohol sales lasting for more than a year.

The restaurant industry employs more than 500,000 residents statewide, though federal data shows that number shrank 29.4% over the course of 2020.

Three in 10 businesses shut down, at least temporarily, at the height of the pandemic in March and April, according to federal data, after the Wolf administration enacted some of the strictest mitigation efforts nationwide.

Wolf said Monday he won’t reinstate shutdowns, even as COVID-19 cases caused by variants rise in the state. That’s why he said vaccination remains a priority – and on that front, Pennsylvania “is making good progress.”

About 62.8% of all residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Department of Health. It also ranks 8th in the nation for total amount of doses administered and first for immunizations given to residents 65 and older.

“I think what we need to do is redouble our efforts on vaccines so we make sure we never have to go through what we went through that forced us to come up with this money in the first place,” Wolf said.

Gimblett said the PRLA “will do its part to reach community members where they eat, drink and gather.”

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.