Thousands of protesters converged on the Pennsylvania Capitol grounds in Harrisburg on Monday to demand Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf reopen the state’s economy.
On March 19, Wolf ordered all but “life-sustaining” businesses to close immediately in the Keystone State in response to the coronavirus outbreak, backed with threats of fines and loss of business licenses for those that did not comply.
Today I’m taking decisive action to stop the spread of #COVID19 by ordering all non-life-sustaining businesses to close by 8 p.m.
Enforcement actions against businesses that don’t close will begin Saturday and could include citations, fines & license suspensions. pic.twitter.com/WSd5weA93b
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) March 19, 2020
The governor took the first “limited steps” on Monday to reopen Pennsylvania’s economy, allowing limited building construction and online car sales to resume May 8.
“We are taking small steps toward a degree of normalcy,” Wolf said.
The governor emphasized that the stay-at-home order is still in place and he offered no timeline for when it will be lifted.
Please be aware there is still a statewide Stay at Home Order in place. #COVID19 is still very much a threat.
We must continue to take precautions. Only travel if needed. Wear a mask if you do go out in public.
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) April 20, 2020
Attorney Marc Scaringi — who filed a lawsuit on behalf of multiple small business owners against Wolf’s stay-at-home order, calling it unconstitutional — was one of the speakers at Monday’s rally, which he told The Western Journal drew thousands.
A parade of vehicles drove by 2nd Street in front of the Capitol, honking their horns in support of those standing on and near the Capitol grounds.
The scene in Harrisburg, Pa.
Video via @miguelmarquez
— Robert Costa (@costareports) April 20, 2020
“This governor’s business closure order is probably the most irrational, unscientific and biggest overreach to a viral illness in the history of our country,” Scaringi told those assembled.
“And the results have been catastrophic to the lives of millions of Pennsylvanians,” he added. “Since March 15, over 1.3 million Pennsylvanians have been forced our of their jobs and have had to file for unemployment compensation.”
Scaringi said Reopen Pennsylvania was the lead group organizing Monday’s rally.
When asked about whether Pennsylvania was currently meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to reopen the economy, he said the state’s secretary of health increased the death toll in the state over the weekend by including another 276 new fatalities attributed to the coronavirus outbreak, as The Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown reported.
That figure pushed Pennsylvania to over 1,000 deaths, with over 30,000 testing positive, according to Johns Hopkins.
“They have changed the criteria by which they determine COVID-19 deaths to a probable cause determination,” Scaringi said of the state officials.
“That’s spiked up our death toll, but we don’t think it’s the proper methodology to be using,” he added.
The attorney argued during his rally speech that his state is “not leading with science.”
Scaringi said that the majority of the COVID-19 deaths have occurred in 10 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
Those are the urban counties in and around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as the northeast counties near New York City and northern New Jersey, the nation’s hottest spot.
Dauphin County, where the mid-sized city of Harrisburg is located, has just 386 confirmed cases as of Monday.
Scaringi argued if Pennsylvania were to follow the science, its coronavirus efforts would be focused on the counties where the outbreak is the most severe and among the demographic groups hardest hit.
“Focus your efforts where the illness is,” he said. “Don’t shut down tens of thousands of businesses.”
The lawyer said one of his clients, who operates a lumber business in rural Warren County (in northwest Pennsylvania), should not have been shut down, given there was only one confirmed case and no deaths in the county.
WCAU reported, “both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature were planning to return to session as Republicans push legislation that would take away some of Wolf’s power to determine which businesses must remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Wolf has pledged to “veto one bill sent to him last week and another that is expected to win House passage as early as Monday.”
Asked about the protests that have occurred in state capitals over the last week, Trump told reporters on Sunday, “some governors have gone too far. Some of the things that happened are maybe not so appropriate.”
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