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Wolf: No interest in new lockdown after York County COVID-19 spike

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Gov. Tom Wolf during a visit to the York County Food Bank East York Emergency Food Hub in Springettsbury Township, Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

One day after York County saw its largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases on record, Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday said the last thing he wants to do is revert back to the "draconian measures" of taking the county out of the green phase of reopening.

Wolf, a York County native, made the comments after he toured the York County Food Bank in Springettsbury Township to applaud the volunteers' efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"As we see spikes, if that's what's happened in York County, we feel there are other things we can do other than go back to the crude, draconian measures in the beginning," Wolf said.

More:York County has 30 new cases of COVID-19

More:York County breaks record with 55 new COVID-19 cases; testing blamed

Wolf specifically noted that contact tracing and additional testing would be prioritized over reimplementing restrictions. But he emphasized that it is impossible to tell what could come in the fall, when some experts have predicted a resurgence.

The governor has been under immense pressure from GOP lawmakers to fast-track reopening efforts, even though all counties except Lebanon are in the green phase. That pressure has led to a state Supreme Court battle expected to be heard this week.

York County on Monday reported 55 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest day-over-day increase since the outbreak began. It also marked the highest percentage day-over-day increase since April 21, coming in at 4.2%.

Wolf said Tuesday he was not aware of Monday's spike that pushed the county up to 1,351 cases. On Tuesday, the county's total jumped another 30 cases, to 1,381 since the beginning of the outbreak. So far, 39 deaths in York County have been linked to the coronavirus.

The state Department of Health, though, attributed the increase to universal testing in nursing homes and long-term care facilities that Wolf mandated earlier this month.

At least two nursing homes in York County, Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Springettsbury Township and ManorCare South in York Township, have seen surges in cases.

On Saturday, ManorCare South in York Township announced 18 patients and 36 employees had tested positive for the coronavirus since the outbreak began. One death there has also been linked to the virus.

From left, Gov. Tom Wolf, left, is shown a table filled with food, which represents what each recipient will receive that day, while on a guided tour with York County Food Bank President and CEO Jennifer Brillhart, Director of Programs Zach Wolgemuth and Warehouse Coordinator Joe McQuerrey at the York County Food Bank East York Emergency Food Hub in Springettsbury Township, Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

As of Friday, Pleasant Acres reported 72 COVID-19 cases among residents — 39 of which are active — and four deaths. Fourteen staff members have tested positive.

In response to the county's surge, Wolf specifically noted the state's progress in curbing the spread of the coronavirus, as other states see increases in cases, particularly in the Sun Belt and West.

"We have things like contact tracing. If we see an outbreak somewhere we can follow those people who have tested positive in a way we couldn't do just a couple months ago," Wolf said. 

Wolf on Tuesday also echoed sentiments from the Health Department that universal testing has revealed more cases in long-term-care facilities.

Still, Republicans have grilled the governor over his handling of the situation.

Those criticisms include his handling of nursing homes and the sometimes significant discrepancies between what nursing homes are themselves reporting and what's offered by the state. 

For example, both Pleasant Acres and ManorCare still show no cases of COVID-19 in state data despite their internal numbers.

And despite the governor's hesitance to strip York County of its green phase designation, which permits all businesses to reopen — although with occupancy restrictions — GOP lawmakers continue seek further loosening of Wolf's measures. 

From left, York County Food Bank President and CEO Jennifer Brillhart, and board member Dan Hawks, who is also director of leasing at Kinsley Properties, walk with Gov. Tom Wolf as he visits the York County Food Bank East York Emergency Food Hub in Springettsbury Township, Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The state Supreme Court could rule this week on whether the GOP-controlled Legislature can kill Wolf's emergency declaration through a concurrent resolution passed in both chambers earlier this month.

If the high court sides with the GOP, finding that the resolution doesn't require Wolf's signature, the governor's ability to suspend regulations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 would take a major blow.

There is ongoing debate, though, over whether the resolution could put an end to business closures.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.