Bucks County struggles to enforce new Pa. COVID-19 guidelines

A health care worker wears personal protective equipment as she speaks with a patient at a mobile testing location

In this file photo, a health care worker wears personal protective equipment as she speaks with a patient at a mobile testing location for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Updated at 2:08 p.m.

Officials in Bucks County say they’re struggling to enforce new state COVID-19 guidelines as some businesses, particularly bars and gyms, continue to flout the new restrictions.

“A few gyms can’t decide they’re going to do it their own way and make everyone else carry the weight,” said Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, during a Friday press briefing. “Please contact us, ask us for help.”

The new restrictions went into effect last week, eliminating indoor dining and shuttering businesses like gyms and casinos. New Jersey has seen similar issues with private business defying state restrictions and resorted to revoking liquor licenses from scofflaw bar owners.

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County officials acknowledged there had nevertheless been great frustration among business owners and residents around the new orders, and indicated they had asked the state for additional guidance around enforcement.

In the meantime, Commissioner Bob Harvie said the county plans to waive the restaurant fees and asked patrons interested in supporting struggling restaurants or bars to opt for takeout or delivery orders. Ellis-Marseglia said she had received complaints from concerned residents, but that the county had limited power to respond. She added that worrying activity should be reported to local law enforcement.

“If you’re having a concern about a gym or some place that’s open in your neighborhood you need to call your local police,” she said.

Case counts remain high. The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 9,320 new cases of COVID-19 overnight, among the worst days this year but measurably below the all-time high of 12,884 cases recorded on Dec. 5. The statewide total now stands at 538,655.

Philadelphia reported 659 additional confirmed cases, for a total of 84,166. The state’s largest city recorded 15 new deaths.

There are 6,209 individuals currently hospitalized for COVID, with 1,246 in intensive care units – far more than seen during the initial surge in the spring. Most of those hospitalized were 65 or older.

By the end of Thursday, the state reported another 216 deaths linked to COVID-19, for a total of 13,608 since the start of the pandemic.

Bucks commissioners echoed concerns from officials around the Philadelphia region that prospects of additional state or local aid from Washington seem increasingly dim as congressmen continue to feud over a second stimulus package.

“Maybe they’ll get something done in the new year,” said Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo. “We’re hoping for that.”

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