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Eager to reopen, local officials across Pennsylvania are set to defy Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to cautiously ease coronavirus restrictions.
The governor has outlined a phased reopening plan, complete with a color-coded readiness chart. Wolf announced Friday that 24 more counties have qualified as “yellow,” meaning they can partially reopen Friday, while extending stay-at-home orders for the remaining “red” counties until early June.
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Some local officials don’t agree with the tiered strategy, though. They plan to use their power to proceed with their own reopening plans, despite the fact that Pennsylvania confirmed 1,323 new coronavirus cases in a single day on Friday.
Lebanon County officials and some Republican lawmakers, including state Sen. Dave Arnold and Reps. Russ Diamond, Frank Ryan and Sue Helm, delivered a letter Friday to the Democratic governor informing him of their plans.
“Lebanon County has met the requirement of your original Stay-at-Home Order, which was to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 outbreak and allow hospitals the time to gear up for COVID-19 patients being admitted to the ICU and in need of ventilators,” the letter reads.
“We have heard the pleas of our residents who desire the ability to safely re-open their businesses and safely return to work. Lebanon County plans to move forward and will require businesses who are ready to re-open to follow CDC guidelines including requirements such as hand washing, social distancing, and masks until further guidance is received for the county to move to the Green Phase.”
Lebanon’s district attorney posted a statement on Facebook, declaring that she will not prosecute businesses that open as long as they comply with appropriate restrictions.
Lebanon, located midway between Harrisburg and Reading, is not alone in its plan.
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office posted a letter to Facebook that declares that the office “will not be enforcing any ‘order’ that violates our Constitutional Rights.”
“I have no intentions in turning local business owners into criminals,” Sheriff Ronny Anderson said, according to the post.
Jeff Haste, who chairs the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners, issued a similar letter, saying, “Enough is enough. It is time to reopen the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and return our state to the people (as prescribed by our Constitution) and not run it as a dictatorship.”
“Allow our businesses and communities to reopen. For centuries, our people and businesses have shown they can adapt to changes to survive and prosper.”
The full letter can be read here.
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The remaining “red” counties have petitioned the governor to upgrade their counties to “yellow,” arguing that they have met the conditions for ending the stay-at-home order. Wolf said he plans to upgrade an additional 13 counties on May 15, barring any setbacks in controlling the virus.
Wolf has stressed voluntary compliance with the orders.
As of Friday, Pennsylvania had 52,915 confirmed cases, with 3,416 deaths.