Wolf retrenches sweeping order, amid complaints, lawsuits

Erie County Sheriff's Deputy Jonathan Clover assists Shahram Abdollahi, of Erie, Pa., before he passes through a metal detector Thursday, March 19, 2020, at the front entrance of the Erie County Courthouse in Erie, Pa.. Much of the county's court business is shut down through at least early April under a Pennsylvania Supreme Court order issued on Wednesday in response to COVID-19, the new coronavirus.

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports 470 cases of COVID-19 across the state as of Sunday – up by 108 in 24 hours.

The cases were recorded in 33 counties.

Locally, no cases have been confirmed in Cambria, Somerset or Bedford counties.

“Our notable increase in cases over the last few days indicates we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a released statement Sunday. “Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: stay calm, stay home and stay safe. We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home.”

There have been 4,964 individuals who have tested negative, and two deaths in Pennsylvania.

"With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data is not available on the total number of tests pending," the state health department said.

Enforcement of shutdown

Gov. Tom Wolf's Administration announced:

• Enforcement of business closures will begin at 8 a.m., Monday.

• All non-life-sustaining businesses must close to slow the spread of COVID-19. (See attached list.)

• Pennsylvania k-12 schools remain closed with guidance provided.

• Events involving 10 people or more throughout the United States should be postponed.

• No-visitor policies are in place at all state correctional facilities and nursing homes to ensure the safety of inmates, residents, staff and visitors.

Safety precautions

The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

• Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

• Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.

• Clean surfaces frequently.

• Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.

State police enforcement

Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), issued the following statement Sunday on the agency’s enforcement of Governor Tom Wolf’s order closing physical locations of non-life-sustaining businesses:

“The priority of the Pennsylvania State Police is protecting lives and maintaining order in the commonwealth. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, troopers and liquor control enforcement officers are prepared to ensure compliance with Governor Wolf’s order. 

“Private businesses, organizations, and other noncompliant entities face possible criminal penalties under the Administrative Code of 1929, 71 P.S. § 1409 and/or the Pennsylvania Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, 35 P.S. § 521.20(a). Both violations are summary offenses punishable by fines and even jail time. Violators may also be subject to additional administrative penalties under certain circumstances. 

“We believe most Pennsylvanians want to act responsibly and do their part to help slow the spread of this deadly virus. Troopers and liquor control officers will make every effort to achieve voluntary compliance by educating business owners and using discretion when appropriate. But our message is clear: COVID-19 is a serious health and public safety risk that requires an extraordinary response from law enforcement and the public. I urge everyone to stay home, stay calm, and stay safe.”

The governor has directed the following state agencies and local officials to enforce the closure orders to the full extent of the law:

• Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

• Department of Health

• Department of Agriculture

• Pennsylvania State Police

• Local officials, using their resources to enforce closure orders within their jurisdictions

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