On the same day that thousands of Pennsylvania residents protested Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s widespread business shutdowns and repressive stay at home order, Wolf announced he was extending the stay-at-home order until May 8 and allowing only a few select businesses to reopen until then.
The Pennsylvania governor resisted calls from residents and the Republican-dominated legislature to re-open businesses on May 1 or even earlier, even though the state has the highest number of people filing for unemployment in the entire country.
Wolf did not follow other governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo, who extended stay-at-home orders until May 15, but he also didn’t follow neighboring Ohio, which plans to open some businesses on May 1.
Under Wolf’s current plan, he will sign a Senate bill allowing online auto sales in the state to resume immediately and would allow limited construction to resume May 8. New cases of coronavirus in the state have been declining since April 9, which would more than fulfill federal guidelines for reopening all state businesses with social distancing guidelines on May 1.
Over one thousand attend protest
Although news outlets like the Philadelphia Inquirer said there were “hundreds” of people in attendance at the protest, I was there and that is a huge underreporting of the event. Close to a thousand people stood on the steps in front of the Capitol complex and across the street for several blocks, and hundreds of cars clogged the streets around the complex for several blocks, looping all around the area.
Some of the protesters were standing close together, but it was difficult to tell whether they may have been family members from the same household that wouldn’t be distancing from each other. Others were wearing masks and observing distancing.
The protest was organized by ReOpen PA, a group that started one week ago and now has 58,000 members on Facebook. Other groups like Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine and End the Lockdown Pennsylvania were also involved.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) spoke at the event, saying that Wolf needed to heed the will of the people as evidenced by the passage by both houses of the legislature of a bill to reopen businesses, which Wolf has promised to veto.
“We’re standing shoulder to shoulder to fight for our rights,” Mastriano said as the people gathered chanted, “Open up!”
Wolf suspected of self dealing
Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Lawrence Tabas said about today’s decision by Wolf: “The Governor should be following the CISA and CDC guidelines, as most states are doing, rather than use his lone criteria for businesses that are permitted to operate.”
Many in the state have complained about Wolf’s lack of transparency in giving waivers to certain businesses that exempt them from the shutdowns. A cabinet-making business Wolf has a blind investment in was granted a waiver, which was then rescinded after complaints.
The business is still operating without the waiver, however, the Inquirer reported.
Another point made by those speaking at the protest is that about 80% of counties in the state have very few cases and could safely reopen now while Philadelphia and a few other hard-hit areas could wait a bit longer.