A day after government officials urged a broad list of businesses and gathering places to temporarily close to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tom Wolf provided a clarified list of operations that can remain open during the two-week period.

That list includes industrial manufacturers, gas stations and warehousing operations, as well as agricultural sites, feed mills and food processing companies "essential" to supplying the state.

Construction companies, home and auto repair businesses, shipping companies, banks, convenience stores, laundromats, insurance companies and pet stores were also included – as well as the list of businesses Wolf previously included: pharmacies, grocery stores, post offices and medical facilities.

Public transportation agencies, such as the Cambria County Transit Authority, are also permitted to function – as are lodging providers.

Although these businesses may remain open, the Wolf Administration continues to encourage employers to urge workers to use social distancing practices – a move health officials have said means standing or working six feet apart whenever possible – to prevent the possibility of spreading the highly contagious coronavirus from person to person.

Leaders across the globe have been acting to curb the virus, whose caseload has been multiplying in recent days. Over the past few weeks, the virus has claimed 85 people in the United States, infecting 4,660 more, according to John Hopkins University. In Italy, which had an earlier outbreak, the death toll has climbed to more than 2,100 – many of them people over 70 years old.

On Monday – echoing moves urged nationwide by President Donald Trump – Wolf ordered gathering places and other "non-essential" operations to close. That includes community and recreation centers, salons and barbershops, bars, casinos, concert venues, theaters, golf courses, retail stores and shopping malls.

Bars and restaurants may remain open but must close their dining areas and serve only take-out meals, Wolf said.

"Eating and drinking inside restaurants and bars is temporarily prohibited," he said in a release to media.

Other businesses – including but not limited to legal services, business and management consulting, professional services and insurance services – are encouraged to have employees work remotely or telecommute. If that is not possible, they should employ social distancing best practices and be aware of the Trump Administration's call to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.

“We strongly urge nonessential businesses across the commonwealth to do their part by temporarily closing as we work to flatten the curve and protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians,” said Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin. “We understand that businesses are an economic driver throughout Pennsylvania, and a temporary closure will be a financial and community disruptor. DCED is committed to working with the business community to provide helpful resources for financial assistance.”

DCED offers working capital loans that could be of assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19. Resources and information will be posted to http://dced.pa.gov/resources as they become available. The U.S. Small Business Administration, in addition to local funding partners, may also be a source of assistance for affected businesses.

The Wolf Administration is relying on businesses to act voluntarily before the governor or the Secretary of Health finds it necessary to compel closures under the law for the interest of public health, including section 7301 of the Emergency Management Services Code.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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