"These three weeks, if we all pull together here and do the right thing, we should be able to be in a much better place by the time the vaccines arrive," said Gov. Wolf.By Andy Sheehan

HARRISBURG (KDKA) – Gov. Tom Wolf announced temporary restrictions Thursday meant to flatten the curve as COVID-19 continues to “rage” in Pennsylvania. Among the new mitigation efforts are limiting gatherings, shutting down indoor dining, suspending school sports and closing some businesses.

Gov. Wolf and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine pleaded with Pennsylvanians to follow existing and newly-announced virus mitigation orders heading into the holiday. It comes as Dr. Levine says close to 1,100 people lost their lives because of COVID-19 in the past week.

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“If this virus continues to rage in Pennsylvania, over the past several weeks it’s become clear that we need to take further mitigation actions to protect Pennsylvanians to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Gov. Wolf.

“We all hoped it wouldn’t come to this, and that’s the point. The current state of the surge in Pennsylvania though will not allow us to wait. We need to slow the spread right now in order to save lives. If we don’t, we’re going to be in big trouble.”

The governor said he hopes these mitigation efforts accomplish three things: stop the virus’ “devastating” spread, keep hospitals and healthcare workers from becoming overwhelmed and help get Pennsylvanians through the holiday season and closer to a vaccine.

The new measures are set to begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and extend until 8 a.m. Jan. 4, stretching through Christmas and New Year’s.

All in-door dining will be shut down. Outdoor dining, take-out and curbside cocktails are still allowed.

“It’s the virus that is dictating this,” said Gov. Wolf. “All of us I think need to focus on the most targeted, the most effective ways to deal with this. Again, as I said, it’s unfair. We’re frustrated. It’s terrible. But when we get together with other people for whatever reason, it’s a real problem, and that’s what the virus really likes.”

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Indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 50. Places of congregate worship are excluded but are “strongly encouraged” to find other ways to worship.

Gyms and fitness facilities are shut down for indoor operations, and all in-person businesses can only operate at 50% of max capacity.

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Businesses in the entertainment industry will also be shut down, with theaters, concert venues, museums, movie theaters and recreational or social facilities among the businesses prohibited from indoor operations.

In-person extracurricular school activities are suspended and all K-12 school sports are paused. Professional and collegiate sports can continue in accordance with guidance from the CDC and Department of Health, but no fans are allowed.

On Thursday, the health department reported that 248 more people have died from the virus, pushing Pennsylvania’s death toll to over 12,000. There were also another 11,972 positive test results reported.

As of Thursday, there were more than 5,800 Pennsylvanians hospitalized with the virus, with nearly 1,200 patients in the ICU.

Geisinger’s president and chief executive officer Jaewon Ryu spoke at the virtual press conference, saying when he talks to employees they say it feels like they’re bailing water out of a sinking ship but there’s still a big hole.

“Somehow we have to find out how to increase the number of buckets we have to bail, but more importantly how to decrease the amount of water in these boats,” he said.

Gov. Wolf’s order can be read online.

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“These three weeks, if we all pull together here and do the right thing, we should be able to be in a much better place by the time the vaccines arrive,” the governor said.