Gov. Wolf is threatening to pull funds from those counties and told businesses in those regions their certificates to operate will be put into jeopardy. Wolf says those employed by businesses that are reopening “illegally” can stay at home “and collect their unemployment benefits.”
So far, state officials have not given Schuylkill County the go-ahead to begin reopening.
However, on Saturday, Senator Dave Argall, Reps. Jerry Knowles and Mike Tobash and all three county commissioners drafted a letter to the governor announcing their plans to go yellow anyway.
They cite adequate personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testings at hospitals in the area as their main reason.
'Enough is enough,' said Argall. 'We believe we can protect our health and protect our economy at the same time.'
At least seven counties in the state have notified Gov. Wolf that they are moving forward into a new phase of reopening with or without his permission.
Republican commissioner majorities in Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lebanon and Schuylkill counties have all made public moves in that direction in recent days.
Their argument comes down to this: They’ve seen their residents respond, sometimes at tremendous personal cost, to Wolf’s initial emergency lockdown and its stated goals of buying time against the virus so that the state’s hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. And, as of mid-May, the commissioners say, they feel they’ve won.
Now, it’s time to reward those residents for their patience by starting to let them resume their lives and livelihoods.
Pennsylvania’s Dauphin County is home to the state’s Capitol in Harrisburg.
On Monday, Wolf threatened to pull funding from counties and operational licenses from businesses that don't cave to his COVID controls.
"To those politicians who decided to cave in to this Coronavirus, they need to understand the consequences of their cowardly acts. The funding we have put aside to help with fighting this crisis will go to the folks doing their part, that includes the CARES Act money that will go to the counties that are fighting the spread and the medical community treating the patients. However, other discretionary funding won't go to counties that put us all at risk by operating illegally," Gov. Wolf said at a news briefing.
"To the politicians urging businesses to risk their lives to risk the lives of their customers or their employees by opening prematurely. They need to understand that they are engaging in behavior that is both selfish and unsafe. You business owners, these politicians put you at risk of losing your health department certificate. They put you business owners at risk of losing your liquor license. They put you business owners at risk of losing your certificate of occupancy."
"Let me be clear," Wolf added. "Employees that fear for their safety because a business has opened illegally, they don't have to go to work. Instead, they can stay at home, stay safe and collect their unemployment benefits."