Senate Approves Measures to Create a Better Process for COVID-19 Mitigation

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HARRISBURG – The Senate approved two bills today that would provide some much-needed clarity and common sense to the process of deciding which businesses can safely operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).

Governor Wolf ordered the closure of all businesses not deemed “life-sustaining” on March 16 in response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Although a haphazard waiver system was eventually created for businesses that believed they could safely remain open while providing vital services, that process was riddled with inconsistencies and caused vast confusion across our communities, Bartolotta said.

The bills approved by the Senate today would create a better process for determining which businesses can continue to remain open, provide clarity on mitigation strategies necessary to protect the health and safety of both customers and employees, and give county leaders a stronger voice in which mitigation measures should be implemented locally.

“We are capable of protecting both lives and livelihoods by relying on the leadership of local elected officials and the guidance of national health experts,” Bartolotta said. “We obviously cannot open up every business tomorrow, but we need to begin to seriously develop plans to get our economy back on track as soon as it is safe to do so. That can only happen through a process that is clear, transparent, and based on common sense.”

Senate Bill 613 would require the governor to create clear guidelines for businesses to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that are able to operate safely under the new guidelines would be permitted to re-open as long as they comply with mitigation strategies.

The bill would require COVID-19 mitigation plans to be developed by the Wolf Administration based on guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia follow CISA guidelines.

To restore local control, Senate Bill 327 would give county governments the option to develop and implement their own plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, following CISA guidelines. Under the bill, businesses already identified as essential could continue to operate. However, counties would be given the authority to develop plans to allow other industries to operate if it is safe to do so.

The bill also creates a COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task Force made up of representatives of all three branches of government to identify and address issues related to the COVID-19 public health emergency together. The panel would be responsible for developing a recovery plan to responsibly restore public services and economic activity.

“The idea that the governor can ignore the advice of national health experts, such as the CDC, is insulting to the hardworking people of Pennsylvania,” Bartolotta said. “Our current system is broken. We need a strong path forward that will build on our efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect Pennsylvanians in a way that is truly fair and transparent.” 

CONTACT:   Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463