‘People are being smart’: Pennsylvania prosecutors unlikely to cite businesses for reopening early

District attorneys across Pennsylvania have indicated they will not prosecute business owners for reopening ahead of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s county-specific plan, according to Breitbart.

Prosecutors are not, however, prohibiting local police from citing businesses after “repeated warnings” to abide by the color-coded reopening schedule.

“People are being smart, wearing masks, and maintaining social distance,” Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo explained in a recent statement. “Using criminal sanctions would not be helpful. The criminal law is a blunt instrument and is not ordinarily used to enforce a governor’s decree.”

New unemployment claims

Despite a relatively low rate of coronavirus cases in the southwestern part of the state, Wolf has not rescinded stay-at-home orders that mandate the continued closure of non-essential businesses in Pennsylvania. Republican state Rep. Scott Martin, a critic of the governor’s decision, described the lockdown as “draconian,” Fox News reported.

Nearly 2 million of Pennsylvania’s roughly 12.8 million residents have filed a claim for unemployment compensation in the weeks since March 15, leading an increasing number of state leaders to push for looser restrictions.

Wolf has also faced backlash for what some see as a lack of transparency surrounding which businesses are still under orders to remain closed, as The Morning Call reports.

Meanwhile, Wolf and Rachel Levine, his health secretary, are reportedly refusing to answer live questions from reporters, Lancaster Online notes.

As Wolf went for weeks without holding a live press conference, reports surfaced that Levine had removed her 95-year-old mother from a nursing home following an order that recovering COVID-19 patients be re-admitted.

Unclear regulations

Amid what some business owners say is mixed messaging from Wolf and others about how they might be allowed to reopen, local authorities say they are unlikely to enforce the order except in extraordinary circumstances.

Echoing Chardo’s concerns, Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck said Wolf’s directives are “frequently changing and not entirely clear” and does not expect to prosecute many, if any, violators, The Morning Call reported.

Prosecutors across the state are similarly advising law-enforcement agencies to issue multiple warnings or contact the district attorney’s office before handing out citations.

With at least one Republican state senator calling for Wolf and Levine to resign over their coronavirus response, some business owners say they are left in the lurch. They might have a reason for optimism, however, as local authorities around the state seem to be sympathetic to their uncertain situation.

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