Solar storm forecasts for Earth improved with help from the public

Solar storm analysis carried out by an army of citizen scientists has helped researchers devise a new and more accurate way of forecasting when Earth will be hit by harmful space weather. Scientists at the University of Reading added analysis carried out by members of the public to computer models designed to predict when coronal mass ejections (CMEs) — huge solar eruptions that are harmful to satellites and astronauts — will arrive at Earth.

The team found forecasts were 20% more accurate, and uncertainty was reduced by 15%, when incorporating information about the size and shape of the CMEs in the volunteer analysis. The data was captured by thousands of members of the public during the latest activity in the Solar Stormwatch citizen science project, which was devised by Reading researchers and has been running since 2010.

The findings support the inclusion of wide-field CME imaging cameras on board space weather monitoring missions currently being planned by agencies like NASA and ESA.

Dr Luke Barnard, space weather researcher at the University of Reading’s Department of Meteorology, who led the study, said: “CMEs are sausage-shaped blobs made up of billions of tonnes of magnetised plasma that erupt from the Sun’s atmosphere at a million miles an hour. They are capable of damaging satellites, overloading power grids and exposing astronauts to harmful radiation.

“Predicting when they are on a collision course with Earth is therefore extremely important, but is made difficult by the fact the speed and direction of CMEs vary wildly and are affected by solar wind, and they constantly change shape as they travel through space.

“Solar storm forecasts are currently based on observations of CMEs as soon as they leave the Sun’s surface, meaning they come with a large degree of uncertainty. The volunteer data offered a second stage of observations at a point when the CME was more established, which gave a better idea of its shape and trajectory.

“The value of additional CME observations demonstrates how useful it would be to include cameras on board spacecraft in future space weather monitoring missions. More accurate predictions could help prevent catastrophic damage to our infrastructure and could even save lives.”

In the study, published in AGU Advances, the scientists used a brand new solar wind model, developed by Reading co-author Professor Mathew Owens, for the first time to create CME forecasts.

The simplified model is able to run up to 200 simulations — compared to around 20 currently used by more complex models — to provide improved estimates of the solar wind speed and its impact on the movement of CMEs, the most harmful of which can reach Earth in 15-18 hours.

Adding the public CME observations to the model’s predictions helped provide a clearer picture of the likely path the CME would take through space, reducing the uncertainty in the forecast. The new method could also be applied to other solar wind models.

The Solar Stormwatch project was led by Reading co-author Professor Chris Scott. It asked volunteers to trace the outline of thousands of past CMEs captured by Heliospheric Imagers — specialist, wide-angle cameras — on board two NASA STEREO spacecraft, which orbit the Sun and monitor the space between it and Earth.

The scientists retrospectively applied their new forecasting method to the same CMEs the volunteers had analysed to test how much more accurate their forecasts were with the additional observations.

Using the new method for future solar storm forecasts would require swift real-time analysis of the images captured by the spacecraft camera, which would provide warning of a CME being on course for Earth several hours or even days in advance of its arrival.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Reading. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Go to Source


Biologists create new genetic systems to neutralize gene drives

In the past decade, researchers have engineered an array of new tools that control the balance of genetic inheritance. Based on CRISPR technology, such gene drives are poised to move from the laboratory into the wild where they are being engineered to suppress devastating diseases such as mosquito-borne malaria, dengue, Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever and West Nile. Gene drives carry the power to immunize mosquitoes against malarial parasites, or act as genetic insecticides that reduce mosquito populations.

Although the newest gene drives have been proven to spread efficiently as designed in laboratory settings, concerns have been raised regarding the safety of releasing such systems into wild populations. Questions have emerged about the predictability and controllability of gene drives and whether, once let loose, they can be recalled in the field if they spread beyond their intended application region.

Now, scientists at the University of California San Diego and their colleagues have developed two new active genetic systems that address such risks by halting or eliminating gene drives in the wild. On Sept.18, 2020 in the journal Molecular Cell, research led by Xiang-Ru Xu, Emily Bulger and Valentino Gantz in the Division of Biological Sciences offers two new solutions based on elements developed in the common fruit fly.

“One way to mitigate the perceived risks of gene drives is to develop approaches to halt their spread or to delete them if necessary,” said Distinguished Professor Ethan Bier, the paper’s senior author and science director for the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society. “There’s been a lot of concern that there are so many unknowns associated with gene drives. Now we have saturated the possibilities, both at the genetic and molecular levels, and developed mitigating elements.”

The first neutralizing system, called e-CHACR (erasing Constructs Hitchhiking on the Autocatalytic Chain Reaction) is designed to halt the spread of a gene drive by “shooting it with its own gun.” e-CHACRs use the CRISPR enzyme Cas9 carried on a gene drive to copy itself, while simultaneously mutating and inactivating the Cas9 gene. Xu says an e-CHACR can be placed anywhere in the genome.

“Without a source of Cas9, it is inherited like any other normal gene,” said Xu. “However, once an e-CHACR confronts a gene drive, it inactivates the gene drive in its tracks and continues to spread across several generations ‘chasing down’ the drive element until its function is lost from the population.”

The second neutralizing system, called ERACR (Element Reversing the Autocatalytic Chain Reaction), is designed to eliminate the gene drive altogether. ERACRs are designed to be inserted at the site of the gene drive, where they use the Cas9 from the gene drive to attack either side of the Cas9, cutting it out. Once the gene drive is deleted, the ERACR copies itself and replaces the gene-drive.

“If the ERACR is also given an edge by carrying a functional copy of a gene that is disrupted by the gene drive, then it races across the finish line, completely eliminating the gene drive with unflinching resolve,” said Bier.

The researchers rigorously tested and analyzed e-CHACRs and ERACRs, as well as the resulting DNA sequences, in meticulous detail at the molecular level. Bier estimates that the research team, which includes mathematical modelers from UC Berkeley, spent an estimated combined 15 years of effort to comprehensively develop and analyze the new systems. Still, he cautions there are unforeseen scenarios that could emerge, and the neutralizing systems should not be used with a false sense of security for field-implemented gene drives.

“Such braking elements should just be developed and kept in reserve in case they are needed since it is not known whether some of the rare exceptional interactions between these elements and the gene drives they are designed to corral might have unintended activities,” he said.

According to Bulger, gene drives have enormous potential to alleviate suffering, but responsibly deploying them depends on having control mechanisms in place should unforeseen consequences arise. ERACRs and eCHACRs offer ways to stop the gene drive from spreading and, in the case of the ERACR, can potentially revert an engineered DNA sequence to a state much closer to the naturally-occurring sequence.

“Because ERACRs and e-CHACRs do not possess their own source of Cas9, they will only spread as far as the gene drive itself and will not edit the wild type population,” said Bulger. “These technologies are not perfect, but we now have a much more comprehensive understanding of why and how unintended outcomes influence their function and we believe they have the potential to be powerful gene drive control mechanisms should the need arise.”

Go to Source


Engineers produce a fisheye lens that’s completely flat

To capture panoramic views in a single shot, photographers typically use fisheye lenses — ultra-wide-angle lenses made from multiple pieces of curved glass, which distort incoming light to produce wide, bubble-like images. Their spherical, multipiece design makes fisheye lenses inherently bulky and often costly to produce.

Now engineers at MIT and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell have designed a wide-angle lens that is completely flat. It is the first flat fisheye lens to produce crisp, 180-degree panoramic images. The design is a type of “metalens,” a wafer-thin material patterned with microscopic features that work together to manipulate light in a specific way.

In this case, the new fisheye lens consists of a single flat, millimeter-thin piece of glass covered on one side with tiny structures that precisely scatter incoming light to produce panoramic images, just as a conventional curved, multielement fisheye lens assembly would. The lens works in the infrared part of the spectrum, but the researchers say it could be modified to capture images using visible light as well.

The new design could potentially be adapted for a range of applications, with thin, ultra-wide-angle lenses built directly into smartphones and laptops, rather than physically attached as bulky add-ons. The low-profile lenses might also be integrated into medical imaging devices such as endoscopes, as well as in virtual reality glasses, wearable electronics, and other computer vision devices.

“This design comes as somewhat of a surprise, because some have thought it would be impossible to make a metalens with an ultra-wide-field view,” says Juejun Hu, associate professor in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “The fact that this can actually realize fisheye images is completely outside expectation.

This isn’t just light-bending — it’s mind-bending.”

Hu and his colleagues have published their results in the journal Nano Letters. Hu’s MIT coauthors are Mikhail Shalaginov, Fan Yang, Peter Su, Dominika Lyzwa, Anuradha Agarwal, and Tian Gu, along with Sensong An and Hualiang Zhang of UMass Lowell.

Design on the back side

Metalenses, while still largely at an experimental stage, have the potential to significantly reshape the field of optics. Previously, scientists have designed metalenses that produce high-resolution and relatively wide-angle images of up to 60 degrees. To expand the field of view further would traditionally require additional optical components to correct for aberrations, or blurriness — a workaround that would add bulk to a metalens design.

Hu and his colleagues instead came up with a simple design that does not require additional components and keeps a minimum element count. Their new metalens is a single transparent piece made from calcium fluoride with a thin film of lead telluride deposited on one side. The team then used lithographic techniques to carve a pattern of optical structures into the film.

Each structure, or “meta-atom,” as the team refers to them, is shaped into one of several nanoscale geometries, such as a rectangular or a bone-shaped configuration, that refracts light in a specific way. For instance, light may take longer to scatter, or propagate off one shape versus another — a phenomenon known as phase delay.

In conventional fisheye lenses, the curvature of the glass naturally creates a distribution of phase delays that ultimately produces a panoramic image. The team determined the corresponding pattern of meta-atoms and carved this pattern into the back side of the flat glass.

‘We’ve designed the back side structures in such a way that each part can produce a perfect focus,” Hu says.

On the front side, the team placed an optical aperture, or opening for light.

“When light comes in through this aperture, it will refract at the first surface of the glass, and then will get angularly dispersed,” Shalaginov explains. “The light will then hit different parts of the backside, from different and yet continuous angles. As long as you design the back side properly, you can be sure to achieve high-quality imaging across the entire panoramic view.”

Across the panorama

In one demonstration, the new lens is tuned to operate in the mid-infrared region of the spectrum. The team used the imaging setup equipped with the metalens to snap pictures of a striped target. They then compared the quality of pictures taken at various angles across the scene, and found the new lens produced images of the stripes that were crisp and clear, even at the edges of the camera’s view, spanning nearly 180 degrees.

“It shows we can achieve perfect imaging performance across almost the whole 180-degree view, using our methods,” Gu says.

In another study, the team designed the metalens to operate at a near-infrared wavelength using amorphous silicon nanoposts as the meta-atoms. They plugged the metalens into a simulation used to test imaging instruments. Next, they fed the simulation a scene of Paris, composed of black and white images stitched together to make a panoramic view. They then ran the simulation to see what kind of image the new lens would produce.

“The key question was, does the lens cover the entire field of view? And we see that it captures everything across the panorama,” Gu says. “You can see buildings and people, and the resolution is very good, regardless of whether you’re looking at the center or the edges.”

The team says the new lens can be adapted to other wavelengths of light. To make a similar flat fisheye lens for visible light, for instance, Hu says the optical features may have to be made smaller than they are now, to better refract that particular range of wavelengths. The lens material would also have to change. But the general architecture that the team has designed would remain the same.

The researchers are exploring applications for their new lens, not just as compact fisheye cameras, but also as panoramic projectors, as well as depth sensors built directly into smartphones, laptops, and wearable devices.

“Currently, all 3D sensors have a limited field of view, which is why when you put your face away from your smartphone, it won’t recognize you,” Gu says. “What we have here is a new 3D sensor that enables panoramic depth profiling, which could be useful for consumer electronic devices.”

Go to Source


Researchers develop simple method to 3D print milk products

Researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) developed a method to perform direct ink writing (DIW) 3D printing of milk-based products at room temperature, while maintaining its temperature sensitive nutrients.

3D printing of food has been achieved by different printing methods, including the widely used selective laser sintering (SLS) and hot-melt extrusion methods. However, these methods are not always compatible with temperature-sensitive nutrients found in certain types of food. For instance, milk is rich in both calcium and protein, but as these nutrients are temperature sensitive, milk is unsuitable for 3D printing using the aforementioned printing methods which require high temperature. While the cold-extrusion is a viable alternative, it often requires rheology modifiers or additives to stabilize printed structures. Optimizing these additives is a complex and judicious task.

To tackle these limitations, the research team from SUTD’s Soft Fluidics Lab changed the rheological properties of the printing ink and demonstrated DIW 3D printing of milk by cold-extrusion with a single milk product — powdered milk. The team found that the concentration of milk powder allowed for the simple formulation of 3D-printable milk inks using water to control the rheology. Extensive characterizations of the formulated milk ink were also conducted to analyse their rheological properties and ensure optimal printability.

“This novel yet simple method can be used in formulating various nutritious foods including those served to patients in hospitals for their special dietary needs,” said the lead author and Ph.D. candidate from SUTD, Mr Lee Cheng Pau.

“Cold-extrusion does not compromise heat-sensitive nutrients and yet offers vast potential in 3D printing of aesthetically pleasing, nutritionally controlled foods customized for individual requirements,” added Assistant Professor Michinao Hashimoto, the principal investigator of the study.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Singapore University of Technology and Design. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Go to Source


Promising computer simulations for stellarator plasmas

For the fusion researchers at IPP, who want to develop a power plant based on the model of the sun, the turbulence formation in its fuel — a hydrogen plasma — is a central research topic. The small eddies carry particles and heat out of the hot plasma centre and thus reduce the thermal insulation of the magnetically confined plasma. Because the size and thus the price of electricity of a future fusion power plant depends on it, one of the most important goals is to understand, predict and influence this “turbulent transport.”

Since the exact computational description of plasma turbulence would require the solution of highly complex systems of equations and the execution of countless computational steps, the code development process is aimed at achieving reasonable simplifications. The GENE code developed at IPP is based on a set of simplified, so-called gyrokinetic equations. They disregard all phenomena in the plasma which do not play a major role in turbulent transport. Although the computational effort can be reduced by many orders of magnitude in this way, the world’s fastest and most powerful supercomputers have always been needed to further develop the code. In the meantime, GENE is able to describe the formation and propagation of small low-frequency plasma eddies in the plasma interior well and to reproduce and explain the experimental results — but originally only for the simply constructed, because axisymmetric fusion systems of the tokamak type.

For example, calculations with GENE showed that fast ions can greatly reduce turbulent transport in tokamak plasmas. Experiments at the ASDEX Upgrade tokamak at Garching confirmed this result. The required fast ions were provided by plasma heating using radio waves of the ion cyclotron frequency.

A tokamak code for stellarators

In stellarators, this turbulence suppression by fast ions had not been observed experimentally so far. However, the latest calculations with GENE now suggest that this effect should also exist in stellarator plasmas: In the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator at IPP at Greifswald, it could theoretically reduce turbulence by more than half. As IPP scientists Alessandro Di Siena, Alejandro Bañón Navarro and Frank Jenko show in the journal Physical Review Letters, the optimal ion temperature depends strongly on the shape of the magnetic field. Professor Frank Jenko, head of the Tokamak Theory department at IPP in Garching: “If this calculated result is confirmed in future experiments with Wendelstein 7-X in Greifswald, this could open up a path to interesting high-performance plasmas.”

In order to use GENE for turbulence calculation in the more complicated shaped plasmas of stellarators, major code adjustments were necessary. Without the axial symmetry of the tokamaks, one has to cope with a much more complex geometry for stellarators.

For Professor Per Helander, head of the Stellarator Theory department at IPP in Greifswald, the stellarator simulations performed with GENE are “very exciting physics.” He hopes that the results can be verified in the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator at Greifswald. “Whether the plasma values in Wendelstein 7-X are suitable for such experiments can be investigated when, in the coming experimental period, the radio wave heating system will be put into operation in addition to the current microwave and particle heating,” says Professor Robert Wolf, whose department is responsible for plasma heating.

GENE becomes GENE-3D

According to Frank Jenko, it was another “enormous step” to make GENE not only approximately, but completely fit for the complex, three-dimensional shape of stellarators. After almost five years of development work, the code GENE-3D, now presented in the “Journal of Computational Physics” by Maurice Maurer and co-authors, provides a “fast and yet realistic turbulence calculation also for stellarators,” says Frank Jenko. In contrast to other stellarator turbulence codes, GENE-3D describes the full dynamics of the system, i.e. the turbulent motion of the ions and also of the electrons over the entire inner volume of the plasma, including the resulting fluctuations of the magnetic field.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik (IPP). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Go to Source

IEEE Spectrum

Retrofit a Polaroid Camera With a Raspberry Pi and a Thermal Printer


Loud Objects: “Broccoli” // What The… Wednesday?!

These 1-bit noise toys, from Loud Objects, are really something. Can we take a peek under the hood?

Also mentioned:


Curve at tip of shoes eases movement but may lead to weaker muscles, problems

The toe of most shoes, especially sneakers, bends ever so slightly upward. While that curve, called a toe spring, can make stepping more comfortable and easier, it may also weaken feet and potentially open them up to some common (and painful) foot-related problems.

That’s the conclusion reached by Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel E. Lieberman, his former undergraduate student Oliver B. Hansen ’19, and two former post-doctoral researchers, Freddy Sichting and Nicholas B. Holowka, who studied toe springs and their effect on the biomechanics of walking. Their research is detailed in a new edition of Scientific Reports.

The scientists found that the more curved a toe spring is, the less power the foot inside the shoe has to exert when pushing off from the ground while walking. That means foot muscles are doing less work, and this, the researchers hypothesize, may have consequences.

“It stands to reason that if the foot muscles have to do less work, then they’re probably going to have less endurance given that many thousands of times a day you push off on your toes,” said Lieberman, the Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Science and senior author on the paper.

The researchers say this potential weakness could make people more susceptible to medical conditions like plantar fasciitis — a common, hard to repair, and painful inflammation of the thick, web-like band of tissue that connects the heal bone to the toes.

“One of the biggest problems in the world today of people’s feet is plantar fasciitis,” Lieberman said. “We think that what happens is that people are relying on their plantar fascia to do what muscles normally do. When you get weak muscles and the plantar fascia has to do more work, it’s not really evolved for that, and so it gets inflamed.”

The scientists say their next step is to validate their hypothesis in future studies.

“From an evolutionary perspective, wearing modern shoes that have arch supports, cushioning, and other supportive features is a very recent phenomenon,” said Sichting, who’s now a professor of human locomotion at Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany and served as the paper’s first author. “Several lines of evidence suggest that weak foot muscles may be partly a consequence of such features. In our research, we were interested in a nearly ubiquitous element of modern shoes that has not been studied before: the upward curvature at the front of the shoe.”

He means the toe spring, of course, which constantly flexes the toe box above ground and has become nearly ubiquitous in modern footwear, especially in athletic shoes.

The project started after Sichting and Lieberman met at a conference in Boston, and (of course) went for a run by the Charles River where they talked about foot biomechanics and plantar fasciitis. That led to Sichting coming to Lieberman’s Skeletal Biology and Biomechanics Lab in 2018 to work on the project with Holowka, who’s now an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Buffalo, and Hansen, a former Crimson rower who graduated with a concentration in human evolutionary biology. Hansen worked on the paper as part of his senior honor’s thesis.

In the experiment, 13 participants walked barefoot and in four pairs of custom-made sandals on a specially designed treadmill. The treadmill is equipped with force plates and an infrared camera system to measure how much power is put into each step. The sandals each had varying degrees of toe spring angles — from 10 degrees to 40 degrees. They were designed to mimic the stiffness and shape found in commercially available shoes.

It became clear while analyzing the data that the propulsive force generated by the metatarsophalangeal or MTP joints (that’s where the toes connect to the rest of your foot bones) decreases as the curve of the toe spring on the specially-made sandals increased. MTP joints are one of the key features that have evolved so that humans can walk and run on two feet so effectively and efficiently.

“By reducing moments at the MTP joints, toe springs likely relieve the intrinsic foot muscles of some of the work necessary to stiffen these joints,” the researchers wrote in the study. “These small differences in muscle work likely add up to substantial differences over time when considering that the average individual in industrialized countries takes 4,000 to 6,000 steps per day. Thus, habitually wearing shoes with toe springs could inhibit or de-condition the force generating capacity of intrinsic foot muscles.”

The researchers make clear in the paper that more research is needed on all fronts and that their study does not directly link toe springs with plantar fasciitis or other common foot problems. The study also included only habitual shoe users whose feet may already have been adapted to shoes with toe springs.

“This study isolated just one element of our shoes,” said Hansen. “More research is needed to investigate how toe springs interact with other elements of shoes such as stiff soles or cushioning. This could give us a more complete picture of how shoes affect our biomechanics.”

Still, they say the unrecognized biomechanical effects of toe springs on foot function merits further consideration.

“Walking in shoes with comfortable features such as a toe spring has its costs,” Sichting said.

Don’t expect toe springs to go anywhere anytime soon, though.

“We like comfort,” Lieberman said. “That’s why we sit in chairs and take elevators.”

Go to Source


Hubble captures crisp new portrait of Jupiter’s storms

The latest image of Jupiter, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on Aug. 25, 2020, was captured when the planet was 406 million miles from Earth. Hubble’s sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of the famous Great Red Spot region gearing up to change color — again.

A unique and exciting detail of Hubble’s snapshot appears at mid-northern latitudes as a bright, white, stretched-out storm traveling around the planet at 350 miles per hour (560 kilometers per hour). This single plume erupted on Aug. 18, 2020 — and ground-based observers have discovered two more that appeared later at the same latitude.

While it’s common for storms to pop up in this region every six years or so, often with multiple storms at once, the timing of the Hubble observations is perfect for showing the structure in the wake of the disturbance, during the early stages of its evolution. Trailing behind the plume are small, rounded features with complex “red, white, and blue” colors in Hubble’s ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared light image. Such discrete features typically dissipate on Jupiter, leaving behind only changes in cloud colors and wind speeds, but a similar storm on Saturn led to a long-lasting vortex. The differences in the aftermaths of Jupiter and Saturn storms may be related to the contrasting water abundances in their atmospheres, since water vapor may govern the massive amount of stored-up energy that can be released by these storm eruptions.

Hubble shows that the Great Red Spot, rolling counterclockwise in the planet’s southern hemisphere, is plowing into the clouds ahead of it, forming a cascade of white and beige ribbons. The Great Red Spot is currently an exceptionally rich red color, with its core and outermost band appearing deeper red.

Researchers say the Great Red Spot now measures about 9,800 miles across, big enough to swallow Earth. The super-storm is still shrinking as noted in telescopic observations dating back to 1930, but the reason for its dwindling size is a complete mystery.

Another feature researchers are noticing has changed is Oval BA, nicknamed by astronomers as Red Spot Jr., which appears just below the Great Red Spot in this image. For the past few years, Red Spot Jr. has been fading in color to its original shade of white after appearing red in 2006. However, now the core of this storm appears to be darkening slightly. This could hint that Red Spot Jr. is on its way to turning to a color more similar to its cousin once again.

Hubble’s image shows that Jupiter is clearing out its higher altitude white clouds, especially along the planet’s equator, where an orangish hydrocarbon smog wraps around it.

The icy moon Europa, thought to hold potential ingredients for life, is visible to the left of the gas giant.

This Hubble image is part of yearly maps of the entire planet taken as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy program, or OPAL. The program provides annual Hubble global views of the outer planets to look for changes in their storms, winds, and clouds.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

Story Source:

Materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Go to Source


Wolf Administration Signs Orders That Restaurants May Increase Indoor Occupancy to 50 Percent – PA Department of Community & Economic Development

Governor Wolf Order
Secretary of Health Order

Harrisburg, PA — As part of the Wolf Administration’s ongoing efforts to ensure public health and safety and support economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine today signed new orders following the recent announcement that restaurants may increase indoor occupancy to 50 percent starting Monday, September 21. The order requires that serving alcohol for on-site consumption must end at 11:00 PM starting on Monday, September 21 and all alcoholic beverages must be removed from patrons by midnight. This applies to both restaurants that do not self-certify to increase to 50 percent and those that choose to stay at 25 percent. There is no change to the requirements for the temporary sale of cocktails-to-go and take out alcohol sales from bars, restaurants or hotels with a liquor license.

“As we continue to take critical steps to continue to mitigate the spread of COVI-19, we also recognize that this pandemic has taken a significant toll on the food services industry, so we must balance public health and economic recovery,” Gov. Wolf said. “These orders give restaurants the ability to increase indoor occupancy safely while giving customers confidence when deciding to patronize a restaurant.”

The recently announced self-certification process will enable restaurants to increase indoor occupancy to 50 percent while adhering to mitigation efforts that will keep employees and customers safe. Starting September 21, restaurants can begin submitting their self-certification documents to an Open & Certified Pennsylvania database.

Restaurants that self-certify will appear in an Open & Certified Pennsylvania searchable online database of certified restaurants across the commonwealth and will receive Open & Certified Pennsylvania branded materials, such as window clings and other signage designating their certification, which they can display for customers and employees.

The self-certification documents and information about the Open & Certified Pennsylvania program will be available online on September 21 and will contain the following:

  • A list of requirements contained in the current restaurant industry guidance and enforcement efforts;
  • A statement that the owner has reviewed and agrees to follow these requirements;
  • The business’ maximum indoor occupancy number based on the fire code; and
  • A statement that the owner understands that the certification is subject to penalties for unsworn falsification to authorities.

Restaurants should complete the online self-certification process by October 5 when enforcement relative to 50 percent occupancy will begin. Self-certification will still be available after October 5.

Business owners should keep a copy of the self-certification confirmation they will receive by e-mail. The self-certification will be used as part of ongoing enforcement efforts conducted by Department of Agriculture and Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, and will be shared with the departments of State, Labor & Industry and Health, and other enforcement agencies.

Self-certifying will not lead to additional inspections. The occurrence of regularly scheduled or complaint-based inspections from enforcement agencies will not be affected by certification status. In fact, certifying proves that a business is committed to protecting employees and providing patrons a safe dining experience. Any health and safety violations from self-certified businesses will be handled first with warnings and education rather than fines or other penalties.

The Wolf Administration has released Frequently Asked Questions as a reference for restaurant owners and the public, along with updated restaurant guidance.

Restaurant owners with additional questions about the self-certification program can contact [email protected].

For more information about the Department of Community and Economic Development, visit the DCED website, and be sure to stay up-to-date with all of our agency news on Facebook