Governor Wolf: State can and will enforce COVID compliance

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SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — Most Pennsylvanians are complying with Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Most, but not all.

On Monday, in front to the Susquehanna Township Police Department, Wolf reminded everyone that wearing masks and maintaining social distance is not just the right thing to do. It’s the law.

“Two-thirds of Pennsylvanians are already very active in wearing a mask every time they are in public,” Wolf said from a podium positioned in front of two police cars.

He thanked the 2/3rds but reminded the remaining third that the state can, and will, issue fines or seize licenses from people and businesses that are not in compliance.

“For flagrant violators, that’s up to and including, as the governor mentioned, suspension or revocation of one’s liquor license,” said Lt. Col. Scott Price of the Pennsylvania State Police. He said PSP’s liquor control inspectors will not just cite for violations of the liquor code. They are now looking for Covid-19 violations.

It’s the same story at the PA Department of Agriculture, which regularly inspects restaurants. Its inspectors can now cite establishments for not making customers or employees wear masks, or not reducing capacity to 25 percent,  or serving drinks without meals.

Agriculture Secretary Russ Redding attended the Monday press conference. He says his department gets hundreds of complaints a week from the public about non-complying establishments. But is he comfortable having to enforce Covid-correctness?

“I would say what do you do with public complaints from folks who don’t feel safe going in there? Or employees who are not wearing a mask? Or patrons who are completely pushing it away?” Redding asked.

The Ag Department will not be able to cite The Hershey Road Family Restaurant. It closed for good last Friday, citing Wolf’s 25-percent capacity rule.

“I’m used to doing 300 people a day. I’m now doing 30 people a day,” said restaurant owner Scott Levy. “Thirty people a day! You can’t survive on 30 people a day.”

Local police departments are also getting complaints about Coronavirus rule violators. Susquehanna Township has gotten its share but it prefers a velvet glove to an enforcement hammer.

“We’ve used gentle persuasion,” said Rob Martin, Susquehanna Township’s Public Safety Director. “We’re looking at this as an opportunity to build trust with our citizens and  talk to them. That seems to be working, Dennis.”

Wolf has said since the pandemic began that it’s up to all 12.8 million Pennsylvanians to kill the virus and do the right thing. There has been very little actual enforcement of his various restrictions.

“If all that motivates us is the idea that, yeah out there there’s an enforcement mechanism, it’s not gonna work,” Wolf said.

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