Gov. Tom Wolf (D), who is facing mounting pressure from residents desperate to get back to work, doubled down on Monday, accusing local leaders who are reopening their counties early of engaging in a “cowardly act” as well as stating that local business owners who plan to reopen in defiance of his orders are “morally wrong.”
Wolf addressed the bubbling tension in his state as several counties outline plans to reopen despite his lockdown orders.
“To those politicians who decide to cave in to this coronavirus, they need to understand the consequences of their cowardly act,” Wolf said.
The funding we have put aside to help with fighting this crisis will go to the folks who are doing their part, and that includes our CARES Act funding, which will be used to help counties that are following the orders to prevent the spread and medical communities who are treating patients. However, other discretionary funding won’t go to counties that put us all at risk by operating illegally.
Politicians “urging businesses to risk their lives and risk the lives of their customers or their employees by opening prematurely” are “engaging in behavior that is both selfish and unsafe,” Wolf continued, attempting to pit Pennsylvania business owners against local leaders who are standing in solidarity with them to reopen their respective counties so Pennsylvanians can continue with their livelihoods.
“You business owners, these politicians put you at risk of losing your health department certificate,” liquor license, and certificate of occupancy, Wolf said.
“All these depend upon your doing everything you can to keep your patrons safe, and by opening before the evidence suggests you should, you’re taking undue risks with the safety of your customers,” the governor warned.
“That’s not only morally wrong; that’s also really bad business,” he said, continuing to lecture business owners who follow the “whims” of local leaders and warning that they will “probably find themselves uninsured.”
Wolf continued to accuse those who want to reopen ahead of schedule of surrendering to the virus and quitting the fight.
However, Wolf walked back his threats during the Q&A portion of the presser, noting that the federal government largely designates where the CARES Act money goes.
“What I was talking about are discretionary dollars,” he said.
When asked if he could prevent counties from defying his orders and reopening, Wolf suggested he could.
“Yeah. Again, the constitutions of county commissioners are also my constituents,” he said, later admitting that he has not asked Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) to act in areas where district attorneys will not prosecute for reopening in regions where the lockdown order remains in place.
“No, I have not–nor do I intend to,” Wolf said.
Wolf also refused to forcefully push back on President Trump’s tweet Monday morning in which he proclaimed that the “great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now.”
“I don’t know how you stay safe and move quickly,” the governor stated.
Wolf’s remarks came as several local Pennsylvania leaders outlined their intention of moving their counties to the next phase of reopening, regardless of Wolf’s orders. Many district attorneys and sheriff’s offices across the state have indicated they will not criminalize business owners who operate outside of the governor’s stringent orders, which he recently extended to June 4.