Last week, we heard Gov. Tom Wolf announce something we had all been dreading for months. In a virtual press conference, he made a second statewide business shutdown official, saying, “Today, I’m announcing additional, temporary, temporary, Covid-19 protective, mitigation measures in the commonwealth.”
The order expands much of Philadelphia’s current policy, banning indoor dining and other business activities, to the rest of the state, without a relation to local infection rates. Gyms, restaurants, bars, retail stores and many other businesses will have to completely halt in-door operations. As we are headed into a Northeastern U.S. winter, opportunities to operate outdoors will effectively disappear. Some businesses can continue in-door activities at 50 percent capacity.
The National Restaurant Association recently published a survey showing that nearly half of the Commonwealth’s restaurants and bars could close in the next six months. This new shutdown order will cause that number to climb. The ever-growing list of shuttered businesses in Philly will stop being an outlier occurring just in the Southeast, and instead serve as a grim example of the pain to come to the rest of the state.
However, if you ask the governor about the downstream consequences of mandatory, Commonwealth-wide shut-down orders, he’s quick to skirt any and all blame.
The National Restaurant Association recently published a survey showing that nearly half of the Commonwealth’s restaurants and bars could close in the next six months.
WPXI reporter Liz Kilmer, with obvious concern in her voice, asked Wolf that very question during the press conference. Unable to hold back expressing the problems and pain inherent in more business shutdowns, she said, “For small businesses, you talked a lot about restaurants, this is going to be so, so devastating. And this is the government putting people out of work right before the holidays. With the federal judge ruling that the previous lockdown was unconstitutional, what can you say, just, regarding your belief that this is constitutional? Is this the only way? And what else, if anything, can be done to help the small business owners?”
Immediately, Wolf countered with, “It’s not the government putting businesses at risk, it’s the virus.”
Of course, if there was no virus there would not be public policies implemented in response to it. But the scope and severity of Pennsylvania’s Covid-19 restrictions remain under the sole purview of Gov. Wolf.
READ MORE — Albert Eisenberg and Spencer Landis: ‘There is no specific single number’ — Philly officials cagey on metrics to ease Covid business lockdowns
He has made that clear time and again: first by vetoing bill after bill aimed at curbing his spring shutdown orders; then by vetoing a bill to end his emergency declaration; and finally by taking a lawsuit regarding that veto to his friends in the Pa. Supreme Court, who reimagined the state emergency code to fit Wolf’s bidding.
Without Wolf’s shutdowns, businesses where in-person interaction is inherent to their operations would undoubtedly suffer — research has shown the dramatic level of voluntary caution taken by individuals, especially older people, during this pandemic. But business owners would also be free to at least try to survive by adhering to health protocols and proving to their customers that they are operating safely.
“Is this the only way?”
Ms. Kilmer cut to the core of the issue when, in the middle of her long question, she asked, “Is this the only way?”
No, it is not the only way. The various policies implemented among the 50 states and among countries around the world prove that. This is Governor Wolf’s way.
At one point, Wolf said, “It’s unfair. It’s frustrating. It’s terrible.”
We agree, Mr. Governor.
Both the virus and the policies you have chosen to implement in response to it are unfair, frustrating, and terrible.
Pretending that you have no choice in the matter, as though your constituents are naïve enough to believe you have no agency, only makes your choices this holiday season all the more insulting. Especially to the additional families who will now have to go to the food bank for their Christmas dinner, because their livelihoods were swept away by government fiat.
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