Gov. Wolf quiet on plans to reopen Pennsylvania


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — With two weeks remaining on his tentatively set stay-at-home order, Gov. Tom Wolf has been quiet in regards to how he plans to reopen the state.

The governor has been firm in his effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, ordering all ‘non-life sustaining businesses’ to close, shutting down schools for the remainder of the academic year, and requiring a statewide mandate on masks.

Although the rate of coronavirus appears to be declining in Pennsylvania, Wolf maintains, “We are not where we need to be.”

As the threat of coronavirus persists, workers in the commonwealth have felt the economic brunt of the novel disease. Unemployment claims have reached all-time figures amid the pandemic — throughout the state and country.

Wolf says more staff has been added to mailrooms and call centers, in addition to upgrading technology to help expedite the volume of claims. He says addressing those claims is currently a top priority.

The governor outlined where the state is headed earlier in the week, breaking down the pandemic’s impact in three stages:

  • Buying time to allow the health care system to build capacity in handling patients
  • Transitioning towards a ‘new normal’ from how Pennsylvanians are currently living in
  • A ‘new normal’ following the aftermath of the virus

He did not, however, offer any specific timetable for how these stages would be rolled out. The only concrete date Wolf has provided is April 30, when the stay-in-home order is set to expire from his previous order.

State GOP has had qualms with how Wolf is handling the pandemic, namely with the waiver process and what constitutes as ‘life-sustaining’.

That pushback manifested in passing Senate Bill 613 through the state House and Senate, mostly along party lines. Wolf, however, is expected to veto it, saying it is too soon and would be compromising.

“As the administration has stated many times, irresponsibly going against the direction of the Secretary of Health and reopening businesses too early will only extend the length of the economic hardships created by the pandemic,” Wolf spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger said in an email.

Senate Bill 613 would have required the governor to develop and implement a mitigation plan for businesses that align with the CDC and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Businesses would be eligible to reopen during the pandemic as long as they follow CDC health standards, under CISA terms.

Wolf and several neighboring governors did announce a joint effort on Monday to reopen states once the threat of COVID-19 has diminished.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the state’s lockdown through at least May 15.

“I don’t have any plans along those lines yet, and again, that’s New York and [Cuomo] has to make decisions about what’s best for New York,” Wolf said when asked about the state taking similar steps.

“I am governor of Pennsylvania, I will do what’s right for us,” he later added.

Wolf’s statement is inline with the approach President Trump is taking, largely leaning on governors to make decisions on an individual basis.

The president unveiled his administration’s plans to ease social distancing requirements on a call Thursday with the nation’s governors.

The new guidelines are aimed at clearing the way for an easing of restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while keeping them in place in harder-hit locations.

“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told the governors earlier Thursday, according to an audio recording obtained by The Associated Press. “We’re going to be standing alongside of you.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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