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PA's COVID-19 travel restrictions begin on Friday

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HARRISBURG, Pa.-- Pennsylvania launched new COVID-19 travel guidelines that went into effect Friday. State Secretary of Health Rachel Levine signed a health order saying it is an attempt to get ahead of an increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations for the holiday season.

The travel restrictions apply to anyone traveling to Pennsylvania or coming back after having been out-of-state.

The order does not apply to people traveling back and forth for work or medical treatment. People who refuse to be tested will be required to quarantine for 14 days, Levine said.

"Again, the state has no plans to enforce that measure but is asking for voluntary compliance."

Like the rest of the nation, Pennsylvania has seen coronavirus infections explode in recent weeks.

The state reports more than 5,000 new infections per day, up more than 115% in just two weeks.

Moreover, hospitalizations are up sixfold since the beginning of fall. More than 2,700 people are now in the hospital with COVID-19, approaching the state record of about 3,000 in early May.

According to modeling by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Pennsylvania will run out of ICU beds next month at the current rate of admissions.

The testing positivity rate has increased and deaths are on the rise, as well.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf imposed a state-at-home order and shuttered businesses deemed "non-life-sustaining" early in the pandemic. Still, Wolf and Levine have consistently said they have no intention of implementing another broad-based shutdown.

On Tuesday, Levine did not rule out additional mitigation measures.

"Whether we have to do anything else really depends upon you. It depends upon the public, each one of us taking our responsibility for the common good of everyone in Pennsylvania," Levine said. "And if we all do our part, and we stand united, then we might not need any further mitigation measures."

The departments of Health and Education also advised colleges and universities on Tuesday to have a testing plan for students returning to campus after the holidays. And Levine asked hospitals to move up elective surgeries and said they should be prepared to postpone them if they become flooded with COVID patients.

Governors and mayors around the country have been tightening restrictions in response to the worsening pandemic. On Monday, Philadelphia said it would ban indoor gatherings and indoor dining and shutter casinos, gyms, museums and libraries. Last week, suburban Montgomery County, one of the state's most populous counties, ordered K-12 schools to halt in-person instruction until Dec. 6.

Pennsylvania already had a statewide mask mandate, limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings and occupancy restrictions at bars and restaurants.

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