AP: Wolf taking ‘sector-based approach’ to reopening

The Associated Press
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf takes questions during a meeting with The York Dispatch editorial staff at the Dispatch offices Friday, October 19, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania will gradually reopen its economy using a “regional, sector-based approach” and a modeling tool that will help public officials decide when it’s safe, according to a plan obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its release by the governor’s office Friday.

The plan does not include a timetable or many details about the metrics that Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration will use to decide that Pennsylvania can begin emerging from the coronavirus pandemic after weeks of social distancing.

The documents say that employers and other organizations that are permitted to reopen will be required to follow guidance from the state Department of Health and other state agencies.

A “strong testing regime” must be in place in areas that are permitted to reopen. And limitations on mass gatherings will remain in place.

Wolf was due to unveil “Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 relief, reopening and recovery plan” at 2 p.m., said spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger.

Wolf’s plan comes a day after President Donald Trump, pressing to restart the ravaged U.S. economy, gave governors a road map for economic recovery. The White House guidance said that states should see a “downward trajectory” of documented cases over a 14-day period, but Wolf’s plan does not mention the two-week metric.

The Democratic governor has imposed a series of progressively tougher measures in the face of a pandemic state officials say threatened to swamp hospitals and spike the death toll. COVID-19 has sickened nearly 30,000 Pennsylvania residents and killed more than 750.

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Wolf shut down businesses deemed “non-life-sustaining,” closed schools through the end of the academic year and ordered all 12.8 million Pennsylvania residents to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. Just this week, the Wolf administration ordered people to wear masks inside supermarkets, pharmacies and other stores.

State health officials have said the restrictions have worked to slow the rate of infections and prevent hospitals from running out of bed space, ventilators and other supplies.

But the pandemic and Wolf’s business shutdown order have caused economic devastation, throwing at least 1.4 million Pennsylvania residents out of work. Wolf has been under increasing pressure from Republicans, small business owners and others to relax the restrictions. Protesters plan to gather Monday in Harrisburg to demonstrate against the shutdown.