PA POST – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says it’s time to start talking about reopening the state’s economy, but during a Friday afternoon news conference, he avoided providing dates for when he will lift restrictions on Pennsylvania residents and businesses.
“Unfortunately, we cannot flip a switch and reopen the commonwealth,” Wolf said. “There isn’t going to be one big day. We need to make smart, data-driven decisions, and we can’t be impulsive. We can’t be emotional.”
Starting next week, Wolf said he plans to describe specific steps for lifting restrictions in Pennsylvania. Those steps will follow guidelines released by the Wolf administration on Friday that emphasize a data-driven approach to create quantifiable criteria and take into account conditions in different regions of the state.
The state will also:
- Provide guidance and recommendations for employers, residents and health care facilities;
- Take into account the need for adequate personal protective equipment and diagnostic testing (Wolf said he’s not sure how much exactly is needed);
- Maintain limitations on access to group care facilities and prisons;
- Continue to limit large gatherings unrelated to people’s work.
Wolf’s effort to describe how the state will return to normal came nearly a month after his March 19 order requiring more than 100 types of businesses to close their physical locations.
He later closed schools for the academic year. His stay-at-home order for the entire state lasts until April 30.
From the start, Wolf’s order to close non-life-essential businesses was panned by many Republican state legislators. The GOP-controlled General Assembly passed legislation this week to allow more businesses to reopen, including home construction. Wolf said he plans to veto it.
Protestors plan to gather in Harrisburg Monday against the state’s restrictions. Similar demonstrations took place in Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota this week. On Friday, President Donald Trump appeared to encourage those protests, tweeting, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
Asked about the Monday protest and the president’s tweets, Wolf said he thinks everyone in Pennsylvania is eager to get back to work.
“I’m included in that,” Wolf said. “We are working, all of us, as hard as we can to make sure that we reopen as quickly as possible.”
He said he wants to make sure the health care system isn’t overrun by lifting coronavirus restrictions too soon.
“Right now, I think we’re making good progress. And let’s continue to make this good progress in keeping people safe,” Wolf said. “And then, when the time is right, we’re going to reopen and we’ll liberate every single Pennsylvanian.”
In a statement Friday, Pennsylvania Senate Republican leaders criticized Wolf for not offering more details on his plan for lifting restrictions — and for his opposition to legislation passed this week that would allow more businesses to operate.
“We are tired of hearing his rhetoric that he wants to work with us, while at the same time making unilateral decisions,” Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) said in the statement. “It is far past time for him to abandon his go-it-alone approach and come to the table to work with the General Assembly on real solutions.”
PA Post is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom that covers politics and policy in Pennsylvania. Read their reporting at PaPost.org.