PA Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement after the House’s adoption of H.R. 836, which would vacate a portion of Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency declaration regarding the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to business closures in Pennsylvania. The legislature has the authority to end Wolf’s emergency declaration with a simple majority vote under the law the declaration was issued.
“From the time that the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Pennsylvania in early March, employers have been doing all they can to ensure the safety of their employees and customers – including shutting down for weeks on end in accordance with the Wolf Administration’s business closure order. We understand that these actions were necessary when little was known about the virus, and that mitigation strategies had to be developed quickly in response to the evolving situation.”
“However, with the passage of months, health experts now have a better sense on how to mitigate the virus’s spread. There has also been a marked slowdown of new cases, hospitals and health systems have the capacity to treat patients, and guidance has been issued from both the state and the Centers for Disease Control that help prevent people from contracting the illness.”
“Given these factors, we believe it is time for Pennsylvania businesses throughout the Commonwealth to be afforded the opportunity to safely re-open their doors. The current business shutdown is not only devastating our economy, it is heading us down the road to yet another public health crisis. In fact, Dr. Steven Shapiro, UPMC’s chief medical and scientific officer, warned at a recent Senate committee hearing that the Academy of Family Medicine estimates up to an additional 154,037 deaths of despair from drugs, alcohol and suicide attributed to the rise in unemployment, isolation and uncertainty. And a recent letter from 600 doctors to the Trump administration expressed that the ongoing lockdown has led to a 600 percent increase in suicide hotline calls; and that serious health problems including cancer, heart disease and strokes are going undetected, which will result in even more casualties in the months to come.”
“The reality is, Pennsylvania has had one of the strictest business closure requirements in the nation and has bled revenue while other states that also flattened the curve have started to re-open their economies while trusting employers to take the steps necessary to protect their workers and their customers. The longer this business closure strategy continues, the more our Commonwealth risks losing jobs and economic activity to other states.”
“Throughout this pandemic, the governor has advocated common sense as the best way to protect Pennsylvanians. We agree. We urge the governor to let businesses open in adherence to CDC and state-issued health guidelines; to offer clarity to employers in the re-opening process; and to allow them to use innovative ways to safely continue their operations. Business leaders can and should be trusted to do the right thing in order to keep their communities healthy and safe.”
Read the lawsuit: PA Senate asks Commonwealth Court to “command” defiant Governor to end emergency declaration
PA Senate asks Commonwealth Court to “command” defiant Governor to end emergency declaration