Wolf orders dine-in service closed at suburban restaurants, bars for 14 days under threat of 'enforcement actions'

UPDATED: March 16, 10:20 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all restaurants and bars in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties late Sunday to close their dine-in facilities, effective 12:01 a.m. on Monday, March 16 for 14 days. This directive extends to Allegheny County in western Pennsylvania. 

The new directive is an about face from Wolf's previous position of not enforcing closures, but asking businesses to do the right thing. In a statement, the Wolf administration said businesses that did not adhere to the order could face enforcement actions, though no specifics were given as to what those actions might be.

The statement said the Wolf administration would re-evaluate at the end of the 14 days and decide whether to extend the directive. Take-out, drive-thru, and delivery are allowed to continue.

KYW Newsradio reached out to the Wolf administration to ask why the City of Philadelphia was not included in the order to close dine-in businesses. A spokesperson said, "We're working with the Kenney administration on the city's mitigation efforts."

We also asked how the order would be enforced and are awaiting those details.

The mandate is expected to take a toll on restaurant workers.

"It’s a waitressing business, where you are working for tips. It’s going to be hard on my staff," said Angela Harris, a manager at the Folcroft Diner in Delaware County.

She says the diner has a pretty large kitchen and waitstaff, but now, with only to-go orders coming in, they have to cut back on hours.

"I have some staff who work for Uber of Lyft, or things like that. But with everybody being out of work, I’m not sure how much they are going to get from them."Harris says she is also concerned about making sure their regulars are fed. She said they are working with food delivery services to make that happen."I worry about our customers," she said. "We have a lot of senior citizens that don’t cook for themselves, and they come in every day, sometimes even three times a day."

Wolf's order comes after Pennsylvania health officials confirmed 16 additional cases of coronavirus Sunday, including two in Philadelphia, one each in Delaware and Bucks counties, and four in Montgomery County, bringing the statewide total to 63 cases. An hour later, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley announced two more cases on top of the those announced by the state, bringing the city's total to eight.

Other counties include Allegheny with one case, Cumberland with two, Lehigh with one, Luzerne with one, and Monroe with three.

Philadelphia announces additional cases

In his briefing, Farley said the four new cases in Philadelphia are three men - two in their 30s and one in his 20s - and a woman in her 60s. All of them are isolated at home. One of the men was exposed to international travelers not known to be ill, and another had no known contact with other cases, but travels frequently. The woman was exposed to international travelers who were asymptomatic at the time and later tested positive. No other information was given on the male in his 20s.

"Our information is incomplete, but they appear to be cases that were spread from people who had not yet developed symptoms," Farley said. He added lack of testing equipment hampered their response to the virus, but they expect that to change as new testing facilities open throughout the city, which will boost efforts as they work to identify and quarantine people with coronavirus.

"We expect cases to grow rapidly in this phase of the epidemic," he shared. "In addition to those people who tested positive, we have 45 people whose tests are pending, or waiting for results."

Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy said they are still not advising people to stay home, unlike other counties. "This is a hyperlocal situation," he said, explaining they are continuously balancing how they maintain social order and how to keep people protected.

He did, however, advise people to maintain social distancing. "If you are sick, don’t go out. If you are scared of getting sick, don’t go out," he cautioned. Abernathy also advised people to sign up for text alerts from the city, by texting "COVID PHL" to 888-777.

The Wolf administration did not address Philadelphia in its closure of restaurants and bars.

Temple student tests positive

Temple University had announced Saturday that a student tested positive after spending their spring break in Spain. The student, who lives off-campus, has mild symptoms and has not been on campus since Wednesday. Health officials are currently reaching out to anyone with whom the student came into contact.

This is the school's first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Officials expect more cases to come based on student travel.

Montgomery County shuts down

Montgomery County officials announced Sunday they will shut down nonessential county government on March 16-17. Courts and court offices will also be closed.

The county will work over the next two days to try to figure out what services can be done remotely, and what services they can offer that do not require in-person contact.

As for courts, all jury duty and criminal jury trials have already been cancelled through March 26th.

KYW's Tony Romeo, Justin Udo, Jim Melwert and Andrew Kramer contributed to this report.