HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Elected Officials from all levels of government representing Lancaster County have joined together to unveil a comprehensive plan to safely begin reopening the county, according to State Senator Ryan Aument (R-36).
In a letter sent to Governor Wolf, the elected officials outlined a detailed roadmap explaining how they intend to both protect public health and restart the local economy in a safe, data-informed manner.
“It is clear from the Governor’s own reopening plan that each region of Pennsylvania is unique, and therefore requires individualized plans to mitigate the impact of this virus on both public health and the economy,” said Aument. “Lancaster County has demonstrated time and time again that our leaders are able to find local solutions to local problems through collaboration. As such, we have developed a reopening plan together with municipal, county, state, and federal elected officials in partnership with the private sector business community and non-profits that is specifically tailored to Lancaster County. This collaborative, transparent, data-informed plan harnesses the strengths of our community, allocates precious resources to vulnerable populations throughout the county, and deploys the expertise of a working group of local leaders who know what Lancaster County needs to rise up from this crisis. This collaborative approach is far different than that of the Governor, who has not demonstrated an interest in or ability to coordinate with those outside of his administration.”
The plan includes a comprehensive, four-pronged strategy for protecting the county’s most vulnerable residents in nursing homes and long-term living facilities, where approximately 90% of the county’s COVID-19 deaths have originated. Exacerbated by orders handed down from the state Department of Health coupled with a lack of oversight from the Department, the soaring case counts in these isolated facilities have thus far prevented the county from advancing to the yellow phase of the Governor’s reopening plan. As such, the elected officials point out in their letter that when appropriately accounting for the data from high risk populations that can be safely isolated and provided further protections, such as prisons and nursing homes, Lancaster County’s positive cases drop dramatically.
The Lancaster County reopening plan will be overseen by a working group consisting of representatives of all hospital systems in Lancaster County, the Hospital Association of PA, the Lancaster County Emergency Management Agency, County Commissioners, state legislative delegation, Congressman Smucker, the PA Department of Health, and others. This working group was established at the outset of this crisis and will continue to convene a weekly conference call to review data and metrics, discuss issues and ways to work together to safely reopen the economy in a way that will not jeopardize public health.
Further, a framework has been developed to deploy a direct allocation of $95 million of CARES Act Title V funds that was granted to the county to advance the shared goals of:
· Protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the County,
· Maintaining public service continuity of operations and emergency response, and
· Reopening and supporting the local economy so that individuals, families, and businesses can once again thrive.
In addition, the undersigned recognize that the decision to reopen the county’s economy means ensuring that the business community, the backbone of the economy, is ready from both a public health and financial standpoint. To that end, the Lancaster Economic Development Company and Chamber of Commerce has developed the Lancaster County Economic Recovery plan.
“This comprehensive plan to reopen Lancaster County is consistent with many of the measures that I have personally voted for and supported in the Senate these last few months,” said Aument. “Restoring local control of the pandemic response, protecting public health, promoting collaboration and transparency, and restoring our local economy are goals that I’ve been focused on since the outset of this crisis, and as such, I am proud to work with other Lancaster County elected officials and experts to advance such a thorough plan to achieve these goals at the local level.”
Finally, Senator Aument wants to remind Lancaster County residents that he values their feedback and input during this difficult time, and as such, encourages constituents to participate in his Restore & Reimagine PA initiative. Over the next few months, Aument will be collecting feedback from Lancaster County residents – their thoughts, ideas, challenges, and solutions – to issues that they see and experience firsthand in their communities, schools, businesses, and families.
“I have always said throughout my time in the General Assembly that the residents of Lancaster County are my greatest resource to helping me do my job well. With your input, I’m confident that we can restore, rebuild, and reimagine a stronger Pennsylvania together,” said Aument.
As local businesses begin the process of reopening, new guidelines are available to ensure safe operations. Businesses that have questions about guidelines are encouraged to contact the Department of Health at 1-877-724-3258. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control also has updated guidance for child care centers to protect children, staff, and families from COVID-19.
Businesses should also be aware of Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams’ statement that her office will not prosecute any citations for alleged criminal violations of the orders and directives of the Governor’s administration regarding the operation of non-life sustaining businesses. To be clear, her office can only address the criminal penalties associated with the Governor’s orders and regulations, and as such, offers no opinion and takes no position on the weighty civil or administrative penalties that may be imposed on any business found to be non-compliant according to the Department of Health.
Further, any questions regarding the specifics of the Lancaster County plan or legal enforcement of the Governor’s orders should be directed to the Lancaster County Commissioners office or the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office.