Wolf extends stay-at-home order until at least May 8, says reopening will be regional

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf extended his statewide stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus until May 8. Even then, not everyone will be allowed to resume their normal activities right away.

There will be a gradual, regional approach to lifting travel and business restrictions across the state, Wolf said in a news conference Monday.

"Once we open, if we open in a rural area, that does not mean we’re ending the shut-down, the stay-at-home orders, for places like Philadelphia," he said.

Wolf's previous order had been set to expire April 30. 

Philadelphia has by far the greatest number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the state, with 9,038 diagnoses and 262 virus-related deaths, according to the state Department of Health.

In York County, 493 people have been diagnosed, and there have been six virus-related deaths. In neighboring Lancaster County, there have been 1,236 people diagnosed and 66 virus-related deaths.

York County's other neighbors — Adams, Dauphin and Cumberland counties — have had between 85 and 400 cases each.

Protesters gathered at the Statehouse Monday, April 20, 2020 for the Reopen PA rally. Photo by John Pavoncello

Over the weekend, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board had announced that select state-run wine and spirits stores would offer phone ordering and curbside pickup starting Monday. Sites now offering the service in York County are  the Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores in Hanover borough and Shrewsbury, West Manchester and Springettsbury townships.

The governor said  that  limited construction work will be allowed to start May 8. Wolf also said he would sign a bill Monday allowing online car sales and leasing services, which are normally only allowed in-person at a dealership.

Those were the only details he shared Monday, but the governor said more information would be announced this week.

Wolf said his administration hasn't determined specific benchmarks yet but that he hopes the state will have enough testing capability and health care capacity to begin reopening May 8.

New federal guidelines list "gating" criteria for the phased reopening of businesses, such as daily testing levels. Pennsylvania's testing capacity is far below what health experts say it needs, The New York Times reported Friday. 

Most businesses and all schools across the state have been closed for several weeks in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Republican state lawmakers have been critical of Wolf's shutdown.

Wolf has been correct to talk about social distancing, said state Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, adding that  the governor must also recognize that life has to go on.

"I applaud the governor for finally moving forward and setting a date for opening," he said.

Saylor did criticize the state's waiver system, which allowed some businesses to secure exemptions from the shutdown order. Saylor said business owners with political connections were given waivers, while others were forced to close.

In the hours before the governor announced the extension of the stay-at-home order, several thousand protesters gathered at the state Capitol complex in Harrisburg to protest the shutdown and demand Wolf reopen Pennsylvania's businesses.

It was one of several protests in states across the country over the past several days.

Wolf said the protesters had a right to assemble and share their frustrations and that he wouldn't take enforcement action against them for violating the social distancing orders, but he didn't budge from his position.

"Without continuing to take precautions, we’re all going to see a resurgence of this deadly virus," he said. "So we cannot relax."

Later Monday, Wolf vetoed Senate Bill 613, a Republican effort to allow more businesses to reopen before the end of the governor's stay-at-home order.

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