What is Essential? Wolf Provides Guidance as Businesses Scramble for Answers.

Governor-Wolf-at-PEMAHARRISBURG, Pa. – Governor Tom Wolf issued a press release on Monday night in an effort to provide guidance to businesses scrambling to find answers after his office urged nonessential businesses across the state of Pennsylvania to close for at least 14 days.

Governor Tom Wolf issued the following statement further explaining the situation:

Earlier today, the Wolf Administration strongly urged non-essential businesses across the state to close for at least 14 days to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The governor’s request protects employees, customers, and suppliers and limits the spread of the virus through personal contact and surfaces. Previously the governor designated Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County as mitigation counties with Allegheny County launching its own mitigation efforts. These efforts will now be expanded commonwealth-wide beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17.

“We strongly urge non-essential businesses across the commonwealth to do their part by temporarily closing as we work to flatten the curve and protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians,” said DCED Secretary Dennis Davin. “We understand that businesses are an economic driver throughout Pennsylvania, and a temporary closure will be a financial and community disruptor. DCED is committed to working with the business community to provide helpful resources for financial assistance.”

Non-essential businesses include public-facing industries such as entertainment, hospitality, and recreation facilities, including but not limited to community and recreation centers; gyms, including yoga, barre and spin facilities; hair salons and barber shops, nail salons and spas; casinos; concert venues; theaters; sporting event venues and golf courses; retail facilities, including shopping malls except for pharmacy or other health care facilities within retail operations.

Further, the Governor has ordered that all restaurants and bars close their dine-in facilities to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Businesses that offer carry-out, delivery, and drive-through food and beverage service may continue to do so, but eating and drinking inside restaurants and bars is temporarily prohibited. These businesses offering carry-out, delivery, and drive-through food and beverage should employ social distancing best practices and be aware of the Trump Administration’s guidance to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.

Essential services and sectors include but are not limited to food processing, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, feed mills, construction, trash collection, grocery and household goods (including convenience stores), home repair/hardware and auto repair, pharmacy and other medical facilities, biomedical and healthcare, post offices and shipping outlets, insurance, banks, gas stations, laundromats, veterinary clinics and pet stores, warehousing, storage, and distribution, public transportation, and hotel and commercial lodging.

Although these businesses may remain open, the Wolf Administration continues to encourage them to employ social distancing practices and encourages Pennsylvanians to be thoughtful in their visits.

Other businesses, including but not limited to legal services, business and management consulting, professional services and insurance services are encouraged to have employees work remotely or telecommute. If that is not possible, they should employ social distancing best practices and be aware of the Trump Administration’s guidance to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.

Philadelphia has separately provided guidance for businesses. Businesses in Philadelphia County should follow the city’s guidance.

DCED offers working capital loans that could be of assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19. Resources and information will be posted to http://dced.pa.gov/resources as they become available. The U.S. Small Business Administration, in addition to local funding partners, may also be a source of assistance for affected businesses.

The Wolf Administration said it is “relying on businesses to act now before the governor or the Secretary of Health finds it necessary to compel closures under the law for the interest of public health, including section 7301 of the Emergency Management Services Code.”

Pennsylvania House Republicans responded to Wolf’s earlier press conference, stating: “We agree this is a time to limit exposure to large groups of people, but if you, or a business owner you know, wishes to remain in business, it is their right to do so.”

The release acknowledged the mandate by Wolf for bars and restaurants to end dine-in service

“Food establishments can still operate take-out and delivery services. This is an enforceable action, as restaurants and bars fall under the purview of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the Department of Health.”

In a Facebook post late Monday afternoon, State Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-63 District) stressed that Governor Wolf doesn’t have the authority to close other private businesses.

“Please know that the governor does not have the authority to close privately operated businesses,” said Rep. Oberlander. “His announcement earlier this afternoon is a strong recommendation to close all non-essential businesses but NOT A MANDATE. The decision to close is voluntary, and a business can do what they feel is most appropriate.”

“He admitted that he is NOT sending out the state police or the National Guard to enforce this; however, we have been told that enforcement actions may come into play for bars and restaurants without take-out or delivery services…because they have some sort of state regulatory or licensing connection.”

The Pennsylvania Department confirmed 13 additional positive cases of COVID-19 on Monday — two in Allegheny County; one in Bucks County; six in Montgomery County; two in Monroe County; and two in Philadelphia County. All are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. This brings the statewide total to 76 cases. Confirmed cases also include those from commercial and hospital laboratories.

As of Monday morning, there were 670 patients who have tested negative either at the state public health lab, a commercial lab or a hospital laboratory.


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