States and major cities across the country have imposed the most extensive restrictions on business and social gatherings since widespread lockdowns during the spring, in hopes of preventing a further surge in Covid-19 cases over the winter holidays.
Even as Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. deliver the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine, officials are pleading with a weary—and sometimes defiant—public to avoid the kinds of gatherings and travel that helped drive new cases to record levels nationally after Thanksgiving.
“We can’t let up now. We need to continue all our efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19 in a very vulnerable time,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, secretary of health in Pennsylvania, where Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Dec. 10 ordered places such as movie theaters and bowling alleys to close through Jan. 4, and limited restaurants to takeout service, prompting some to stay open in resistance.
Nearly 85 million Americans are expected to travel from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3, off at least 29% from last year, according to an estimate by AAA. In states across the country, small businesses and restaurants are being hit with de facto lockdowns because of occupancy limits or restrictions on dining. At the same time, big-box retailers have been permitted to stay open, in part because their large stores allow for social distancing, prompting resentment from small-business owners.
Brenda Reid, owner of Brenda’s Family Restaurant in Mill Run, Pa., said she had no choice but to defy the state’s shutdown of indoor dining, saying she and her eight employees rely on the income. Ms. Reid added that she drained most of her savings during the five-week spring shutdown.