By Hannah Bleau - breitbart.com|
Two Pennsylvania counties, Lebanon and Dauphin, plan to reopen ahead of Gov. Tom Wolf's (D) slow-paced schedule, which excluded them - among other counties, including Beaver County - from entering into the "yellow" phase of reopening" - an action some local outlets have described as a "mutiny."
Twenty-four counties entered into the "yellow" phase of reopening on Friday - a phase which still comes with heavy restrictions, only allowing in-person retail stores to operate at a limited capacity and preventing gyms, salons, and barber shops from opening. Wolf said on Friday that another 13 counties could move to the restrictive yellow phase next week but excluded Lebanon and Dauphin - the latter being the home to Pennsylvania's capital city of Harrisburg.
County leaders have slammed the governor's decision and have taken the matter into their own hands, vowing to reopen ahead of the governor's schedule.
Lebanon County commissioners outlined their position in a letter, contending that their residents have "heeded your instructions to practice social distancing and other mitigation efforts, and as a result, our local health care facilities do not lack the capacity to effectively treat these patients going forward."
"Both PPE supply and the availability of COVID-19 tests have increased since mid-March. These factors have provided our local health care facilities with the confidence to address any upcoming concerns as Lebanon County moves to the yellow phase," they continued:
We have heard the pleas of our residents who desire the ability to safely reopen their businesses and safely return to work. Lebanon County plans to move forward and will require businesses who are ready to reopen to follow CDC guidelines including requirements such as hand washing, social distancing, and masks until further guidance is received for the county to move to the green phase.
Additionally, Lebanon District Attorney Pier Hess Graf indicated that the office "will not prosecute any businesses that wish to reopen and may be cited by Pennsylvania State Police or other agencies," according to PennLive.
Dauphin county officials followed suit, with Jeff Haste, Pennsylvania's Dauphin County Board chairman, slamming Wolf's orders in a scathing letter, calling him a "dictator" and demanding the governor "return our state to the people (as prescribed by our Constitution) and not run it as a dictatorship."
"For centuries, our people and businesses have shown they can adapt to changes to survive and prosper," he said. "They cannot, however, do a thing when a dictator and an unelected secretary place them in lockdown."
"Our business owners and residents cannot become prisoners of our county because of this unwarranted double-talk," he continued.
Haste also said the Board of Commissioners will "stand behind our District Attorney in his decision not to prosecute any case against a business that chooses to open following the mandated guidelines as laid out in the yellow phase of reopening PA."
While Wolf claimed to understand the "frustration" among business owners, he argued that it must be "directed at the real enemy here."
"It's the virus. It's not the regulation. And anything we do to bring people together, whether it's employees or customers or both, we're making it easier for that virus to actually attack and infect people and we're jeopardizing their health," he said, accusing those of forging a path ahead regardless of his orders of "jeopardizing lives."
"If they go ahead and do that they're taking a chance, and I think I'd be a little careful in doing that," he cautioned.
The news follows the release of recent data indicating that the majority of recent coronavirus deaths in Pennsylvania stem from nursing homes and personal care facilities, specifically.
As Breitbart News reported:
Roughly 80 percent of the recently reported deaths in the state of Pennsylvania, 247 out of the 310 reported on Thursday, occurred at either a nursing home or personal care facility.
Commissioner Chairman Dan Camp of Pennsylvania's Beaver County also ripped the governor's decision to leave the county in the "red" phase, calling it an "unwarranted and irrational" decision.
"There is no excuse for what is going on, okay?" Chester County State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, a Democrat, stated, contending that the Department of Health has failed the most vulnerable - those in nursing homes.
"A total of 3,416 coronavirus deaths has been reported statewide through Thursday. Of those, 2,355, or nearly 69 percent, were associated with nursing or personal care homes," the outlet [The Morning Call] reported.
"Our hospital systems are not being overrun by COVID-19 patients, nor is there some communal spread within our community. And, those are the ignored facts!" he said, noting that Wolf's decision is "simply based solely on one outbreak" in a county nursing home.
"It's no secret that nearly 70 percent of our COVID-19 cases and more than 90 percent of Beaver County's COVID-19 related deaths are attributed to one nursing home within the county," he explained.
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's (UPMC) Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Shapiro this week added a dose of perspective to the virus in the state, noting that the median age of death from the virus in the Keystone State is 84-years-old.