Departing from his usually moderate demeanor, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf went on the offensive Monday to address rumblings of insurrection across the commonwealth.
Responding to officials in at least seven Pa. counties who voiced plans to defy Wolf’s shutdown order, which is still in effect in more than half the state, he framed the battle to curtail the pandemic as a war.
“To those politicians who decide to cave in to this coronavirus, they need to understand the consequences of their cowardly act,” said Wolf, adding that they’re “choosing to desert in the face of the enemy.”
Wolf went on to outline some pretty fierce potential penalties for defying the reopening plan he put together with Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, including loss of stimulus funds or liquor licenses.
As the state’s curve continues to decrease slowly, hovering at an average of 1,000 to 1,100 new cases each day over the past week, and a total of 3,731 deaths so far, from where do these separatists hail?
The first counties to suggest they’d split from the “red, yellow, green” aggressive mitigation schedule from areas not near Philadelphia. But by the end of the day, even some collar counties had threatened to join the mutiny.
Asked what effect that would have on the city, Philly Mayor Jim Kenney said he didn’t think it would happen.
“I don’t expect them to do that, considering the conversations we’ve been having with them,” Kenney said. “I understand people’s desire to have this over with, but it’ll never be over if we don’t do it the right way, and the safe and healthy way.
Which counties are threatening to reopen?
Counties that appear ready to pick fights with Wolf include:
- Lebanon County
- Lancaster County
- York County
- Bucks County
- Dauphin County
- Schuylkill County
- Beaver County
Joined by an array of congressional and state reps, some of these county officials didn’t specify dates, while others stated intention to move from the red to yellow phase as soon as Friday, May 15. They got a boost from President Donald Trump, who weighed in on Twitter.
Cumberland County, which was originally on the list, clarified it does not intend to contradict Wolf’s orders.
Possibly a smart move, because the consequences threatened by the Wolf administration for disregarding the statewide plan are pretty harsh. They affect not only governments, but also businesses within the regions.
What’s the penalty for reopening too soon?
Outlined in a press release, possible penalties include:
- Loss of state-backed business liability insurance, property insurance, injury coverage and ensuing protections
- Becoming ineligible for federal stimulus funds distributed via the state
- Revocation of liquor licenses for restaurants or bars that reopen before it’s allowed
Philadelphia is in a part of the state that Gov. Wolf has said will remain in the “red” lockdown phase through at least June 4.
Philly Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley affirmed on Monday that the city is in communication with Pa. and other regional officials on planning out the timeline for reopening, but said it’s too soon to provide any specific dates.
“I’m afraid we don’t have any details to share right now,” Farley said. “Philadelphia is clearly different from a rural county that has…fewer cases. We want to have a plan that makes sense where we can open this hard-hit city in a way that is safe.”