Put Pennsylvanians back to work!
A good battle plan is one that accomplishes a specific objective without causing a large amount of collateral damage. Thus we hear about something like a SEAL team strike to neutralize a specific threat without destroying surrounding buildings or people versus a strategic air strike that might flatten an entire area.
The fight against the coronavirus is an analogous situation. The objective should be to contain, mitigate, and eradicate the disease without destroying civilization. Quite apparently, that distinction was lost on our governor. Any plan should recognize that Pennsylvania is a big and diverse state requiring many different solutions.
Seeking advice only from computer models that have not been right yet and medical "experts" with no connection to the real world inhabited by working people, Pennsylvania's governor concocted what he called a plan.
On March 6, the first COVID-19 case appeared in Pennsylvania. On March 16, Governor Tom Wolf issued an emergency declaration and shut down almost all businesses in the state and consigned our citizens to virtual house arrest. That is his plan. It's based on 76 cases in Pennsylvania, half of them in Philadelphia. That's a nuclear option applied to a situation requiring thought and finesse.
Wolf's lockdown order was a one-size-fits-all decree. It didn't make any difference how big or small, how urban or rural an area of the state was, how likely or unlikely it was to experience the spread of coronavirus — they suffered the same draconian decree.
When you look at the number of cases by county, the southeastern corner and eastern part of the state are a totally different picture from the rest of the state. The top ten counties, all in the SE and east, total over 24,000 cases. All the rest of the counties in the state total 6,731 cases. The lowest 42 counties total 1,155 cases, less than any one of the top ten. Why would we apply the same solution to them all?
When you look at the number of nursing homes and cases per county, the big counties still lead. Nursing home cases make up a significant percentage of all cases. It is evident that when the coronavirus gets into a nursing home, it has the potential to spread rapidly in the contained environment of high-risk individuals.
There is no doubt that Pennsylvanians are fed up with Wolf's house arrest plan, and his most recent edict of mandatory face masks in grocery stores pretty much put people over the top. It is an unneeded "piling on" gesture for most of Pennsylvania.
As of last week, more than 1.5 million Pennsylvanians are out of work, our economy is on the verge of collapse, people are losing houses and businesses, lives are disrupted, and very real damage is being done to the non-virus population. The "collateral damage" is becoming much greater than the potential damage by the virus.
Last week, the Legislature passed and sent to the governor a reasonable proposal to begin reopening the economy of the state based on the CISA guidance. Wolf rejected that out of hand, saying he will veto the bill, choosing instead to show callous disregard for the lives of the people of Pennsylvania. He talks of waiting for additional information and tests and vaccines and so on. He wants to keep the place shut down for months. By that time, there will be nothing to reopen.
There is no reason why the western two thirds of this state could not begin reopening tomorrow morning. The problem is with high-density populations and nursing homes. There are two hundred jobs in the CISA guidance that could start functioning. We could begin construction projects and open real estate offices, golf courses, and tennis courts. We could open most small retail shops and offices with limits on occupancy at one time. We could open printing shops and dentist offices, start elective surgeries, open restaurants with limited seating. Be creative about how some businesses run, but put Pennsylvanians back to work. Let the counties decide what works for them. Not the empty suits in Harrisburg.
Dave Ball is a conservative political commentator and author. He is a frequent guest on talk shows and is an elected official and party officeholder.