'Best foliage display in years'

A man kayaks down Slippery Rock Creek at McConnells Mill State Park.

Pennsylvania state parks resume offering official in-person activities on Easter Sunday, April 4, the same day restrictions on entertainment venues and restaurants and occupancy limits for other large indoor and outdoor gatherings are being relaxed.

The state parks have remained open throughout the pandemic though without park-sponsored activities.

The announcement comes as the state reported 4,927 new COVID cases on Friday, the most new cases reported in a single day since January. The state reported its 1 millionth COVID case on Thursday and it’s nearing 25,000 deaths from the virus. As of Friday, 24,953 deaths have been linked to COVID in Pennsylvania.

Maggi Barton, a Department of Health spokeswoman, said the increase in cases demonstrates that Pennsylvanians need to continue taking steps to limit the spread of COVID even as the state relaxes restrictions.

“As we continue to report thousands of cases a day and our statewide percent positivity rate increased this week compared to last, we know COVID-19 remains a threat,” she said. “Even as more and more Pennsylvanians are vaccinated, we must not forget to follow the mitigation measures still in place,” Barton said.

Pennsylvania has administered more than 4.7 million doses of COVID vaccine to over 3 million people, she said.

Under the plan announced Friday, outdoor in-person programs at state parks will resume with a limit of 40 participants. Masks and social-distancing will be required. In addition, visitor center exhibition halls, interpretive areas and theaters will open with a 75% capacity and volunteer workdays will resume with a maximum of 40 participants.

Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Dunn said despite the scaled-back operations, the number of people visiting state parks increased by 1 million in the year since the start of mitigation efforts intended to slow the spread of COVID-19, as people sought recreational opportunities outside where social-distancing was easier to accomplish.

“Since the pandemic’s outset we kept our lands open to all so that people can safely enjoy outdoor recreation to maintain positive physical and mental health,” Dunn said. “Environmental education and other outdoors programs helped our state parks system attain national prominence and we know they were sorely missed by our visitors,” she said.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced earlier this month that restaurants that have self-certified they are following safety guidelines will be able to serve at 75% of their normal capacity beginning on April 4, Easter Sunday.

Gyms and entertainment venues will also be allowed to increase the number of customers they serve to 75% of their normal capacity and the cap on indoor crowd sizes is being increased to 25% of the normal capacity of the venue. Outside gatherings will be allowed to increase to 50% the venue’s normal capacity, Wolf announced on March 15.

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for the New Castle News and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.


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CNHI PA State Reporter

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for the New Castle News and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

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