Registered nurses swab patients during testing for COVID-19 organized by Philadelphia FIGHT Community Health Centers at Mifflin Square Park, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in South Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Virus Testing
Registered nurses swab patients during testing for COVID-19 organized by Philadelphia FIGHT Community Health Centers at Mifflin Square Park, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in South Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

“We all hoped it would not come to this,” Wolf said. “The current state of the surge in Pennsylvania will not allow this to wait.”

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday announced several new coronavirus mitigation measures, including halting all indoor dining at restaurants, closing several types of entertainment venues, and suspending extracurricular activities at schools, starting Saturday morning.

Wolf said the closures and restrictions, which also include limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 50, will last until Jan. 4. 

“We all hoped it would not come to this,” Wolf said. “The current state of the surge in Pennsylvania will not allow this to wait.”

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Wolf had warned earlier in the week—before he tested positive for the coronavirus—that further mitigation efforts like this could be coming.

Wolf spoke Thursday during a virtual news conference. York College virologist Meda Higa, Geisinger Health Systems President and CEO Dr. Jaewon Ryu, and an emergency room doctor from Penn State Health joined him in the news conference.

Ryu pointed out how quickly the number of positive tests has grown just in his health system: At the beginning of November, it averaged 200 cases, and now it’s at 470 positives a day.

“I think the prevailing theme over the last couple weeks,” Ryu said, “is this feeling they’re bailing water but there’s still a big hole at the bottom of the boat.”

State Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine reported that 5,877 people are hospitalized in Pennsylvania; of those, 1,218 are in intensive care units, and 675 are on ventilators. 

“Many hospitals across the state have few ICU beds—if any,” Levine said.

RELATED: More Than 12,000 Pennsylvanians Have Died From Coronavirus

Wolf and his administration are hoping these new measures stem the tide.

Wolf, Levine, and Higa said studies continue to show that places with recycled air, such as restaurants, are where the virus spreads quickest.

“This is not new information about bars and restaurants,”  Levine said. “It’s been known for six months.”

Wolf acknowledged that the restaurant and bar industry have been crushed by the virus and repeated his call for Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act, which would send funds to restaurants.

Two weeks ago, John Longstreet, the president of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, told The Keystone that 63% of restaurants could close if they don’t get help soon.

Also two weeks ago, the majority-GOP state Legislature voted to use the last of its federal CARES Act money to balance the state budget. Democrats argued against the move, saying the money could have gone to front-line workers, hospitals, schools, and restaurants.

RELATED: These Huge COVID Relief Programs Are All About to Expire. It Couldn’t Come at a Worse Time.

One area that Wolf didn’t offer new mitigation measures was in education. While many schools across the state have returned to virtual learning, others remain a mix of in-person and virtual. Wolf did not order schools to close.

He also did not order daycare centers to close.

Wolf said the new mitigation measures are “a bridge” to when the coronavirus vaccine starts getting distributed.

Wolf said there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but we haven’t reached the end of the tunnel yet.

“The situation we are in right now is dire,” he said.