The Pennsylvania Secretary of Health described the most recent coronavirus mitigation order that she and Gov. Tom Wolf signed — one that limits customer occupancy at bars and restaurants to 25 percent — as “surgical and thus precise to prevent from repeating the cycle we saw in the spring.”
If that’s the case, Dr. Rachel Levine and the governor are operating with a scalpel that is much too large.
Based on an “unsettling climb in new COVID-19 cases,” and a projection for a “new surge,” the governor shut down night clubs and dictated that restaurants and bars that serve food limit the number of customers permitted indoors to 25 percent of normal occupancy. Bars and restaurants had been allowed at 50 percent capacity under the governor’s reopening plan. The new limits went into effect on Thursday.
The new orders received a swift and negative response from some lawmakers and many business owners.
“The irreversible impact of his countless, confusing orders cannot be overstated,” said House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre County. “Gov. Wolf’s decision today will close the doors of some small businesses forever and devastate the livelihoods of so many Pennsyvlanians who were just beginning to feel hopeful for the future.”
The new restrictions apply to the entire state, but the numbers of new cases in many regions of the state, including the Central Susquehanna Valley, do not appear to support the “targeted” statewide actions the governor announced this past week.
The uptick in new cases across the state have occurred primarily in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia regions. In the 14-day period from July 3 through July 16, Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, recorded 2,470 new cases of coronavirus, and Philadelphia County had 1,510. Here in the Central Susquehanna Valley, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties logged 63 new cases within the past 14 days, a figure that represents 0.00032 percent of the four-county population.
If “surgical” and “targeted” mitigation efforts are necessary, new restrictions, limitations or enforcements should be imposed on a much more local level, perhaps down to a single business that refuses to comply with health guidelines.
State leaders should get out of the business of telling business owners how to run their businesses, and instead reinforce guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — require masks, minimum six-foot social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing — then allow business owners to put those recommendations into place.
The governor states repeatedly that he trusts Pennsylvania citizens will do the right thing to protect the health of their fellow citizens.
If that’s the case, he would continue to insist that all business owners follow recommended health guidelines, then trust that business owners will find the best ways to implement those standards within their individual and unique buildings.
Since early March, the overwhelming majority of Pennsylvania business owners have done just that.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.