HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Is it the job of state government to protect its citizens during a pandemic?
The answer may seem simple, but after a Midstate lawmaker erupted at the close of an unemployment compensation system hearing, there may be some doubts.
“We’ve lost our collective minds,” Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks/Lancaster) said at Wednesday’s House Labor & Industry Committee hearing.
Cox is the chairman — he asked for indulgence and closing remarks and then launched into a nearly 10-minute critique of what he believes is governmental overreach during the pandemic.
“We simply cannot keep going down this destructive path of trying to keep everyone safe, of trying to keep people from getting any form of any sickness,” Cox said. “What’s next? Are we gonna quarantine children who get the stomach flu? Quarantine someone who gets the common cold? When does this end? It is not the government’s responsibility to keep people safe. It is the government’s responsibility to provide accurate information to us. And it is the government’s responsibility to stop feeding the fears of individuals.”
At an unrelated press conference Thursday, Governor Tom Wolf was asked about Cox’s comments and tried to deflect.
“I’m assuming he didn’t mean it exactly as it came across,” the governor offered.
There was no ambiguity in the Republican legislator’s comments, however. They were quite pointed and aimed, mostly at the Wolf administration.
“It’s not the government’s responsibility to tell me to wear a mask, and to tell me where to go and how far to stand away from somebody,” Cox said.
abc27 followed up with the governor after the press conference and read him directly from the Cox transcript a passage about “it’s not the government’s responsibility to keep people safe.”
“I think he was expressing the same frustrations that all 13 million Pennsylvanians, including me, feel that this virus is out to get us and has caused all kinds of disruption in our lives,” Wolf said.
The governor insists that his Covid-related restrictions and regulations and recommendations are to get Pennsylvania back to normalcy as quickly as possible. “Government does have a role to play, and we’ll get there, but government does have a role to play in helping us get there.”
As for the frustrations of bar and restaurant owners, and high school athletes, and parents and teachers — Wolf said he understands.
He quickly tacked onto that sentiment a familiar pandemic response. “Don’t blame the governor, or the government, or Chairman Cox, blame the virus.”