HARRISBURG – Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) wrote a letter to Governor Wolf this week calling on him to allow employers in Beaver, Greene and Washington counties to reopen with proper safeguards in place to protect both employees and patrons.
Southwestern counties were left out of Wolf’s May 8 reopening plan, despite the fact that they have some of the lowest rates of infection in the state. In her letter, Bartolotta outlined many of the safety procedures that local small business owners are prepared to take to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while remaining safely open to customers.
“The people of southwestern Pennsylvania are capable, creative, driven, and most of all, they are compassionate,” Bartolotta said. “It is time to move forward. I implore you to stop using the convoluted process of reopening counties that is currently underway and to open up all of the counties on May 8th that have met your original benchmarks. Protecting lives and livelihoods is not mutually exclusive.”
The full text of the letter is available below.
Dear Governor Wolf:
I am writing to express my deepest frustrations regarding your reopening plan for this week, specifically that the 46th Senatorial District consisting of Beaver, Greene and Washington Counties are not included in your decision to move from the red to yellow phase.
It is unacceptable that there is no equitable representation under your process for lifting county restrictions. This is a clear violation of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution which we both are sworn to uphold.
While it is true the coronavirus has dramatically affected our Commonwealth and we have yet to fully experience its full impact, it is also critical to understand that its effect is different throughout Pennsylvania, depending on geographic location. Tragically, this order has caused irreparable harm to employers in my district as customers are crossing the border into West Virginia, despite this region experiencing some of the lowest positive rates in the state.
Since your disaster declaration, I have been in constant communication with community hospitals. They are experiencing the lowest intake rate of their existence – sick people are not going to the emergency room, seven weeks of no elected procedures and medical screenings for life threating illnesses were not performed. I frequently talk to these health care workers and EMS personnel. We are seeing some of the highest rates of drug overdose in decades, and not from opioids but from antidepressants and alcohol. These medical concerns cannot continue to be ignored because of the coronavirus.
To that end, I am also engaged in daily conversations with the county commissioners and other local elected officials. They are prepared to move forward, following CDC guidelines and your initial declaration on how to roll out opening counties based on medical data and science.
I receive hundreds of correspondence per week from business owners. The pet groomer is ready to safely receive animals and keep a sanitized facility as they perform vital routine care for pets. The hair salon is prepared to close the store to walk-ins but allow limited customers with sanitized work stations. The factory has personal protective equipment ready and in place to protect employees. The people in my district are ready and able to begin transitioning with the proper safety measures in place to protect employees and customers alike. Every day that we wait pushes more families and employers closer to the edge of the financial cliff and some have fallen already.
The people of southwestern Pennsylvania are capable, creative, driven, and most of all, they are compassionate. Business owners – large and small – want to succeed. They have held on by a thread, following your edicts in hopes that you would be fair, transparent, and equitable. Your announcement last Friday to leave counties in the southwest out of the yellow has severely severed that thread.
It is time to move forward. I implore you to stop using the convoluted process of reopening counties that is currently underway and to open up all of the counties on May 8th that have met your original benchmarks.
Protecting lives and livelihoods is not mutually exclusive.
CONTACT: Katrina Hanna (717) 787-1463