If political stunts could cure COVID-19, Pennsylvania would be virus-free.
Republican state lawmakers, who argued for weeks during the early stages of the public health emergency that restrictions should be determined by region, got the help of a handful of Democrats last week in passing a resolution to end — statewide — Gov. Tom Wolf's March 6 disaster declaration.
They contend that a statute gives them the power to lift the declaration without Wolf's approval, even though the state constitution specifically requires that the governor approve any such resolution. So the state Supreme Court likely will resolve the matter at some point.
The lawmakers seem not to have noticed that two orders by the Department of Health under the disease Prevention Act, regulating business openings and worker safety, remain in place. But stunts need not be thorough.
As legislators moved against emergency measures, health officials in Texas and North Carolina reported significant increases in cases Tuesday weeks after relaxing restrictions.
And in a peer-reviewed study in the journal Nature, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that emergency restrictions like those that the Pennsylvania politicians would lift, prevented 530 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and 60 million in the United States. Another study has found that emergency measure prevented 6,200 COVID-19 deaths in Philadelphia alone.
Everyone has felt some economic consequence from the health emergency. And everyone wants to end it. But doing so would end relaxed eligibility for unemployment compensation with the unemployment rate at 16%, end employers' waivers from paying into the unemployment compensation fund, jeopardize some federal funding tied to state emergency declarations, end a program by which thousands of children have continued to receive meals even though their schools are closed, end foreclosure and eviction moratoriums, end emergency utility-assistance payment for thousands of low-income Pennsylvanians, and more.
COVID-19 is a punch to the solar plexus for all Pennsylvanians. Using it to score political points, rather than ensuring that the state safely emerges from restrictions, is the wrong prescription amid a crisis.
Originally published by The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.