What You Need to Know: Mask mandate ends, restaurants can open all the way, and some big summer festivals return

Written by on May 28, 2021

What You Need to Know: Mask mandate ends, restaurants can open all the way, and some big summer festivals return

By Brad Klein and Jen Rehill

May 28, 2021

People wearing masks walk through a terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Monday, March 16, 2020, in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In our regular Friday feature, “What You Need to Know,” WLVR’s Brad Klein speaks with News Director Jen Rehill about the week’s top local news. This week: Pandemic restrictions lifted. The mask mandate ends along with the welcome news that 70% of the state are vaccinated. And limitations on restaurants and businesses will lift, as scheduled, on Memorial Day. In related news, events cancelled last year are back amidst hopes of a summer free of pandemic restrictions. Those include arts and music festivals, reopened swimming pools, and more.

Listen to the story.

Brad Klein

“Hi, Jen.”

Jen Rehill

“Hi Brad.”

Klein

“Well, we had a welcome announcement yesterday tied directly to the impressive vaccination rate for the state of Pennsylvania.” 

Rehill

“Brad, the state is going to lift its statewide mask order on June 28, if not sooner. But that’s about when officials expect to hit the 70% mark for adults over 18 being fully vaccinated.”

Klein

“That’s an impressive accomplishment. When the governor announced that target, I wasn’t even sure we were going to be able to meet it here in Pennsylvania.”

Rehill

“Brad, I’d have to say I kind of had the same thought and Pennsylvania is not super far ahead of the curve. There are nine states at least at this point that have already hit that benchmark of 70%,  but Pennsylvania is in the upper middle of the pack nationally on this issue.”

Klein

“All this past year, people have been thinking to themselves, ‘What is this normal that we’re trying to return to?’ Well here in Bethlehem, normal includes inviting several hundred thousand people to visit for a week-long music festival, Musikfest.”

Rehill

“That’s right. We got news this week–big, big news for the region–that the festival is going to return in full force, in person, August 6-15. That announcement came on May 26 and there’s not going to be any restrictions on crowd sizes or masking. That, in fact, came before we had that statewide announcement about the masking order. However, officials do say they’re going to be working with the local health department and follow any Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. This is a huge deal for local businesses, Brad. We don’t know how many people may come out this year, but we do know more than 1.2 million people came out in 2019.” 

Klein

“So it has a huge economic impact for the region.”

Rehill

“It sure does. And for ArtsQuest, the nonprofit behind the festival. It lost 90% of its annual revenue when Musikfest was mostly forced to go online last year.” 

Klein

“Just after midnight on May 31, all remaining pandemic restrictions on restaurants and businesses will be lifted. So what are the biggest challenges remaining that are facing, say, restaurants?” 

Rehill

“Well, you know, restaurants are going to be able to go back to full capacity, which I feel like it’s going to feel like a cultural change after this past year. But some restaurant owners are saying they may not be able to do that because they can’t get the staff. They need to bring restaurants back to full capacity and/or they may not feel like it’s practical or safe.  They may want to keep some covid restrictions in place to keep staff and customers safe. Reporter Britney Sweeney spoke to the owner of Bethlehem’s Apollo Grill and she cited all of those concerns and said they’re not going to be going back to full capacity right away.” 

Klein

“And actually, that may make a lot of customers more comfortable as they ease back into this new normal.”

Rehill

“As we all ease back into this new normal, Brad.”

Klein

“Thanks for joining us, Jen.” 

Rehill

“Thanks, Brad.” 

Klein

“That’s Jen Rehill, news director here at WLVR. For more of ‘What You Need to Know,’ sign up for our weekly newsletter at WLVR.org.”

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