U.S. Western District Judge William Stickman IV on Tuesday declined to stay, or put on hold, his own ruling that some of Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 restrictions are unconstitutional.
The judge’s decision means that at least for the time being, Wolf cannot impose certain types of restrictions on Pennsylvanians.
So, is the 25-person indoor limit still in place? Can bars open? Here’s a look at the details.
The ruling strikes down the state’s limitation on crowds – a maximum of 25 people inside and 250 people outside. Gatherings of any size can now occur. The judge found that the restrictions violate citizens’ constitutional right to assemble.
State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said in response to the ruling that the crowd limit was put in place in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 and that Pennsylvanians should keep that in mind when considering how to move forward.
Closure of nonessential businesses
The judge also found that Wolf cannot order nonessential businesses to close, as he did early in the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Under the judge’s ruling, the governor cannot order Pennsylvanians to stay at home.
Can restaurants open at full capacity?
No. Restaurant operations were not a part of the lawsuit heard by the judge. As of this past Monday, restaurants that complete a self-certification process with the state can open at 50 percent capacity.
Are the limits on serving alcohol lifted?
No. As of this past Monday, bars, restaurants, private social clubs and food service businesses serving alcohol for on-site consumption must end alcohol sales at 11 p.m. and all alcoholic beverages must be removed from patrons by midnight.
Wolf had initially proposed ending alcohol sales at 10 p.m., but he pushed it forward to 11 p.m. after receiving complaints from bar and restaurant owners.
In addition, there is no change to the rule that a patron must purchase a meal to go with any alcohol purchase.
Does the ruling bring any other changes?
No. The ruling strikes down Wolf’s limits on size of gatherings and his ability to close nonessential businesses and issue stay-at-home orders.
Wolf said Tuesday that he will appeal the judge’s decision. If the Wolf administration wins the appeal or convinces a judge to stay, or put on hold, the current decision, the governor’s ability to limit the size of gatherings, close nonessential businesses and order Pennsylvanians to stay at home would likely be restored.
On a separate track, Wolf on Monday vetoed legislation that would allow school districts across the state to establish crowd sizes at their sporting events. An attempt to override that veto failed in the House on Wednesday.