House Republicans passed a measure to reopen businesses currently restricted due to COVID-19 despite State Health Dept concerns Tuesday.
The bill comes nearly one month after Governor Tom Wolf ordered non-essential businesses to close amid the “rapid spread” of coronavirus throughout the state.
The Republican backed proposal passed 107-95 with two Republicans from southeastern Pennsylvania- retiring Thomas Murt and Todd Stephens voting with House Democrats where represent districts where the virus is wide spread (Montgomery & Philadelphia Counties).
“Citizens of the Commonwealth have a great resilience and strength and will go to great lengths to do what is necessary to win this fight against an invisible enemy – the COVID-19 virus. However, managing the moment cannot be our only focus,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “This bill allows the governor to join us in creating a plan for allowing businesses that can operate safely to do so, and to save countless enterprises before they close forever.”
In advance of the vote yesterday, State Health Department Director Dr. Rachel Levine said at a Saturday briefing social distancing is working and closures are saving lives.
“To do any kind of mass opening now would be a big mistake.” she said.
House Republicans are seeking to direct the governor to produce a plan to allow businesses that can follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency essential workforce guidelines to resume working in Pennsylvania.
“Our neighboring states have used this process from the beginning of this pandemic and their workforces are operating safely and efficiently,” Cutler added. “Pennsylvania’s businesses, large and small, and the millions of taxpaying residents who work for those businesses, deserve the opportunity to innovate and adjust their existing business to today’s unique and challenging environment.”
Wolf announced with governors from six neighboring states creating a council with an eye of reopening regions economies while also also “… protecting the health and safety of Pennsylvanians. While my administration continues to take critical steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, I also recognize that we must look ahead and take a measured, careful approach to prepare for the future while ensuring that we don’t undo all of our efforts. Pennsylvania will work collaboratively with our partners both in state and in surrounding states to develop a comprehensive strategy that first focuses on health but also addresses the need to gradually restore our economy” Wolf said.
The legislation now moves to the state Senate, where the Republican majority is also pushing to relax restrictions on businesses.
Locally, state Representatives voted with their parties on the measure/.
As of Wednesday morning, 584 people have died due to COVID-19 statewide with 1.3 million people filing unemployment claims according to Dept of Labor and Industry data.