HARRISBURG, PA — State house representatives in PA voted to remove Gov. Tom Wolf's order for all "non-life-sustaining" businesses to close and replace it with more lenient federal guidance. If passed in the Senate and signed by Wolf, more businesses would be permitted to reopen and more employees could go back to work.
The legislation, which passed in the House on April 14 in a 107-95 vote, divided Democrats and Republicans mostly along party lines. Republicans have been harshly critical of Wolf's order, which they have described as "chaotic" and "illogical."
Democrats, however, say that sending non-essential employees back to work too soon would result in more COVID-19 infections and ultimately a higher rate of death.
Wolf has not yet commented on his feelings on the bill. However, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine has said that the legislation would "no doubt" lead to a higher rate of infection.
Wayne and Pike counties representatives Jonathan Fritz and Michael Peifer—both Republicans who voted in favor of the bill—both issued statements about the measure, touting that it "paves the way for safe reopening of businesses and getting back to work."
“Our small businesses and their employees have been hit extremely hard during this pandemic, with most having to close their doors,” said Peifer in a statement. “I believe this bill will allow many of our businesses the choice of whether or not to resume operations, provided they are in strict compliance with recommendations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19... [from] the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This will not only provide a measure of consistency for our businesses, particularly those in rural Pennsylvania, but more importantly, it will help to restore a degree of normalcy for many [PA residents] in these unprecedented times.”
“This legislation provides hope and a path forward for businesses and workers that are experiencing difficult, even desperate, times,” Fritz said. “Saving lives and saving livelihoods are not mutually exclusive. I am certain that we can get folks back to work in a safe manner, while still being vigilant with social distancing and adherence to CDC guidelines in order to continue to suppress the spread of the virus.”
This is a developing story. The River Reporter will continue updating this page as more information is made available.
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