What counties plan to defy Wolf’s shutdown order by reopening early, moving to ‘yellow phase’

Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The start of another week in quarantine has led to a war of words between local county leaders and Governor Tom Wolf.

Several want to move into the yellow phase of his COVID-19 reopening plan this week with or without his permission.

The governor meanwhile said those decisions to reopen early are a threat to public health.

“They are engaging in behavior that is both selfish and unsafe,” Wolf said in a Monday morning press conference.

He pulled no punches in the ring of reopening early, threatening to withhold certain discretionary state and federal funding from defiant counties.

He calls the virus our common enemy.

“To those politicians who decide to cave into this coronavirus, they need to understand the consequences of their cowardly act,” Wolf said.

Many see him as the big bad wolf. In York, District Attorney Dave Sunday has said he will not prosecute citations stemming from the shutdown order.

At Round the Clock Diner, they’re only worried about food orders; they’re now open for dine-in services, after opening to crowds on Mother’s Day.

“Damn right, yeah it’s time to stand up, we sat down for eight weeks – stand up, be heard,” owner Christos Sacarellos said.

In Lancaster, District Attorney Heather Adams has said she will also not prosecute shutdown-related citations. Commissioner Josh Parsons, a republican, is leading the charge to reopen the county this week but fellow Commissioner Craig Lehman, a democrat, disagrees saying the county needs more testing and contact tracing.

“This is a disaster. we need a way out of it and the governor has not been providing a way out of it,” Parsons said.

“Any date that is selected without those tools in place has no public health basis and is completely arbitrary,” Lehman said.

In Dauphin County, District Attorney Fran Chardo said he wants to personally review any potential citation, explaining in a letter to Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas President Judge John Cherry, “I intend to pursue prosecution only when it is in the public interest.”

n Lebanon County, District Attorney Pier Hess-Graf says state-licensed businesses like salons or restaurants are subject to Wolf’s punishments, and should be prepared for repercussions if they reopen, but said in a letter to citizens Monday that her office will not move forward with prosecution.

“All local businesses may reopen without fear of criminal consequences. The burdens on our local economy are great, and law enforcement will not add to them,” Hess-Graf said.

“The ultimate goal is to defeat the virus, if we don’t do that – nothing else we do matters,” Wolf said.

A different tone, meanwhile, in Cumberland County where commissioners are clarifying that they will not move forward with a unilateral reopening, saying in a release Monday in part, that “this move…has no legal basis, and would not stand up, and could actually endanger the business licenses of those who defy the state of emergency declaration.”

Last week, Cumberland County Sheriff Ronny Anderson said he would direct his department to not enforce any shutdown-related policy or order from Gov. Wolf, explaining his stance in a Facebook post.

Other counties like Adams and Perry are requesting they be moved out of the red phase while Franklin County leaders have said they plan to join the growing chorus of defiant counties and move to the yellow phase on Friday, with or without Wolf’s permission.

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