BUCKS COUNTY, PA — Bucks County health department workers will be out in bars and restaurants that serve booze over the 4th of July weekend, making sure drinking establishments are complying with social distancing requirements.
“The Fourth of July, of course … people are used to celebrating and having a good time,” Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Department of Health, said Friday. “Bars are one of the places that can be overwhelmed with people who won’t be social distancing and won’t be wearing masks.”
Damsker’s comments came as Pennsylvania reported its highest single-day total of new coronavirus cases in six weeks. There were 832 new positive cases of the virus reported in the state on Thursday — the highest new case total since May 20.
Damsker said Bucks County has had “pretty good compliance” from bars since they were allowed to let patrons back inside last week, when the county went to the green phase of Pennsylvania’s coronavirus plan.
But elsewhere in Pennsylvania, spikes of coronavirus have been linked to a lack of social distancing at bars and nightclubs. In Allegheny County, officials renewed the ban on indoor consumption of alcohol at bars this week after a surge in cases.
The ban came after the county health department there reported 90 new coronavirus cases on Saturday and 96 on Sunday.
“We are making this a major initiative,” Damsker said. “Anyone who has a bar, who has a restaurant who has (alcohol sales), needs to know we’ll be looking. If we start seeing outbreaks regarding those facilities, that will be the first place Gov. Wolf will shut down.
“There are a lot of facilities that are doing exactly what we’re asking them to do and we don’t want them to be penalized.”
During the green phase, restaurants and bars may use bar seating, but groups of no more than four must be physically distanced from each other or have physical barriers. Standing in bar areas is not permitted.
Staff must wear masks, as must customers when they are entering, exiting or moving through the building. At least six feet must be provided between tables.
Bucks County’s number of newly reported coronavirus cases has remained low compared to the height of the outbreak in April, when it wasn’t unusual for the county to report more than 100 new cases per day.
But, on Thursday, the county reported 34 new cases — the highest number since 42 new cases were reported on June 11.
Damsker had predicted numbers would tick upward when Bucks County moved to green, opening up more businesses and public spaces. But, he said, officials are more likely to take a targeted approach to outbreaks than to move back to the more-restrictive yellow phase if cases spike.
“We would have the ability (to act) here if we saw outbreaks at Business X or Business Y,” Damsker said. “What I don’t like about yellow is it penalizes the businesses who are doing the right thing. We’re looking at more of a specific focus on the businesses who are not doing things right.”
Speaking at an online news conference Friday, members of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners echoed Damsker’s advice for businesses and residents to stay vigilant against the virus during the holiday weekend.
“Just remember, as Dr. Damsker says all the time, that alcohol and COVID do not mix well,” said Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo. “To our young people and to our adults, please be careful. Wear masks. You have to remember the virus is still out there and we want to make sure everyone here in Bucks County is safe and sound.”
Finding Our Way Forward: See more stories about Pennsylvania’s coronavirus recovery
This article originally appeared on the Bensalem Patch