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Gov. Wolf sets May 8 for “gradual” reopening of state economy

Gov. Tom Wolf (right) spoke today during a virtual press conference

Gov. Tom Wolf has set a date of May 8 to begin a “gradual” reopening the state’s economy, though he urged residents to continue practicing social distancing and other safety measures.

Wolf today set that target date to begin the process of business re-openings, though he emphasized that ending the shutdown would be regional, likely beginning with rural counties that have shown relatively few confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“We’ve done the mitigation stage in a measured, commonsense way, and the plan is to move out of this stage in a measured, commonsense way,” he said.

The areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic would likely to be the last ones to have the business shutdown end.

“We’re going to do this on a regional basis,” he said. “If we open in rural area, it doesn’t mean we’ll end the shutdown or stay at home order in a place like Philadelphia.”

Wolf made his remarks in an online news conference as hundreds of people gathered at the state Capitol to protest the business shutdown and stay-at-home orders, many carrying anti-shutdown signs and waving pro-Trump flags. In addition, the state today reported the fewest number of newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases in three weeks.

Wolf also stressed that Pennsylvanians should continue measures such as staying at home and social distancing, even after shutdown orders end.

“If we go too quickly, this might be unsafe for people,” he said. “If we move too quickly, people may not want to go to work because they’re afraid, or may not want to go into a store to buy something because they’re afraid.”

Last week, Wolf set six criteria for businesses to reopen, including:

  • Re-openings will be “data driven,” will be based upon “quantifiable criteria” and will be targeted and regional.
  • Before allowing businesses to reopen, the state will issue “guidance and recommendations” for employers and workers.
  • Reopening will necessitate the availability of “adequate personal protective equipment” and “diagnostic testing.”
  • Reopening will require a monitoring and surveillance program allowing the commonwealth to deploy “swift actions” for containment or mitigation.
  • Protections for vulnerable populations, especially at congregate care facilities and prisons, will remain in place throughout the reopening process.
  • Limitations on large gatherings unrelated to work will remain in place for the duration of the reopening process.

Wolf also set May 8 for the resumption of residential and commercial construction projects that have not been given an exemption under the current shutdown order. In Pennsylvania, the construction industry has been especially vocal in protesting the mandated closing of “non life sustaining” businesses.

In addition, Wolf said that 176 state-owned liquor stores began curbside pickup operations today. Under the plan, there is a limit of six bottles per order, with credit cards the only accepted form of payment. At pickup, customers will be required to present identification before the order is delivered.

Wolf today also said that he would sign Senate Bill 841, approving qualified Pennsylvania notaries public to perform remote online notarizations, which will allow auto dealerships to conduct limited car sales and leasing operations through online sales.

“I want to caution that we will not be resuming operations as they were in February,” Wolf said. “We’re going to continue to take precautions that limit our physical contact with others, and we will closely monitor this to see if it can be done safely.”

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