Dauphin County, home to Pennsylvania’s capital city Harrisburg, is reportedly backing down from proceeding with reopening on Friday in contravention to Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) orders, following his threats to counties and business owners.
Dauphin County officials met on Wednesday to discuss moving their county to the next phase of reopening, despite the governor’s warnings. According to local reports, officials are refraining from following in the footsteps of some of their fellow counties and are not moving their county to the yellow phase of reopening on Friday, as rumored. Instead, commissioners voted to create a task force designed to formulate a plan to reopen the county’s economy.
“The task-force will consist of a business advisory team, a public health and safety team and a social services team,” Local 21 News reported.
The decision follows a pointed letter penned by county board chairman Jeff Haste, who called Wolf a dictator and demanded him to “return our state to the people (as prescribed by our Constitution) and not run it as a dictatorship.”
“For centuries, our people and businesses have shown they can adapt to changes to survive and prosper. They cannot, however, do a thing when a dictator and an unelected secretary place them in lockdown,” he said, adding that the governor “has pitted groups of Pennsylvanians against one another” — something Wolf attempted to do during Monday’s press conference.
Wolf accused politicians who are urging businesses to reopen of “engaging in behavior that is both selfish and unsafe” and warned business owners that such leaders are putting them at risk of losing their health department certificates, liquor licenses, and certificates of occupancy.
The governor also threatened counties that are planning to charge ahead with reopening without his permission, announcing that non-compliant counties “won’t be eligible for federal stimulus discretionary funds.”
While several district attorneys across the state have stated that they will not prosecute businesses that reopen in violation of Wolf’s orders, the governor said he has not asked Attorney General Josh Shapiro to intervene, nor does he intend to ask him to down the road.
Dauphin County remains in the state’s red phase, which Wolf extended to June 4.
According to Wednesday’s health department data, Dauphin County had 871 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 39 related deaths. However, 210 of those cases are among nursing home residents, and another 43 cases involve nursing home employees. In all, 26 of the county’s 39 coronavirus-related deaths are connected to such facilities.