READING, Pa. – Businesses in Pennsylvania got the news they've been waiting to hear for more than a year.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced that most state-imposed COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted by the end of the month. Effective May 31, there will no longer be curfews or gathering limits at restaurants and other businesses.
"From a hockey standpoint, it gives us a chance to start planning, knowing we're going to be at 100% capacity," David Farrar, general manager for the Santander Arena, Santander Performing Arts Center and Reading Royal Hockey.
Many businesses in downtown Reading depend on places like the Santander Arena to attract foot traffic to the area. Now, there's a sense of optimism that the worst is behind them.
"On the arena and theater side, we had announced a bunch of shows for the fall in anticipation we would get there," Farrar said of the lifting of state restrictions. "This assures that now we can go on sale and people can feel better about buying tickets."
Many places had to think outside the box and pivot how they do business over the past year.
"We've had to get very creative with our fundraising events and gatherings, being cognizant of the limits the governor had put on gatherings but still trying to generate as much income as possible," said John Graydon Smith, director and CEO of the Reading Public Museum.
Wolf says the mask mandate will remain in effect until 70% of adults in Pennsylvania are vaccinated. So far, out of a little less than 13 million people, more than 3.6 million Pennsylvanians are fully vaccinated.
"When you look in the rearview mirror, we've learned a lot of lessons about how we can operate with these kinds of situations happening," said Smith. "It's not ideal but we know we're resilient enough to be able to do it."