By his estimation, Stephen Santa took Pennsylvania’s coronavirus lockdown seriously: He pretty much went only to grocery stores and picked up takeout once a week to help Pittsburgh’s restaurants.
Whatever Santa and everyone else in Pittsburgh did, it seemed to work: The city racked up a fraction of the coronavirus cases during the spring shutdown, while the other side of Pennsylvania flared up into a hot spot.
With a state-mandated masking order in place, Pittsburgh’s gyms, salons, bars and restaurants got permission to reopen in early June, ahead of many parts of Pennsylvania, as part of the so-called “green” phase in Gov. Tom Wolf’s three-step stoplight-colored reopening plan. The media could not be loaded, either because the server or network failed or because the format is not supported. Santa promptly went to a nearby Italian restaurant for a meal in its outdoor courtyard with a couple relatives.
When they got there, around 5 p.m. on a Tuesday, it was practically empty. When they left, it was packed inside: every table full, no masks and nobody keeping 3 feet (1 meter) apart, never mind 6 feet (2 meters) apart.
“I think partly a lot of people saw the word ‘green’ and it meant ‘go’ and ‘we’re going back how things were,’" Santa said.
Barely three weeks later, officials in Allegheny County — home to Pittsburgh and 1.2 million residents — raised the alarm over a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The culprit? Primarily, people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who told contact tracers that they had been visiting bars and restaurants or working in them, county officials said.Thus began a cascade of orders in July […]