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Pennsylvania reopening plan gains respect

Despite the publicity stunt by some Republicans to call for the impeachment of Gov. Tom Wolf over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed to Pennsylvania as one of a handful of states that has managed the pandemic in a responsible and effective way, and because of it the numbers are way down from their highs back in April and May.

Has it been perfect? Of course not. After all, when political and health officials are writing the playbook on the fly, there are sure to be a lot of errors and false steps. This is certainly true in Pennsylvania, especially in the way some decisions were made affecting nursing homes, which may have led to high infection and mortality rates in these facilities.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and even Wolf admits that there are a few things that he would have done differently if he knew then what he knows now.

In June, the CDC data indicated that Pennsylvania was one of only three states that have had a downward trajectory of cases for more than 42 days. The others were Montana and Hawaii.

Although there has been some backsliding from mid-June to early July, as all counties have now moved into the green phase, the numbers are nowhere near what some southern and southwestern states are experiencing.

Monday’s 450 cases statewide were the lowest in weeks, and just one death was reported, but Tuesday, the number spiked to 995, the highest in weeks.

About half of Tuesday’s new cases were in Philadelphia and Allegheny counties, while in the five-county Times News area, there were fewer than 50 new cases.

Wolf pointed to the decision to require masks when visiting businesses even in counties in the green phase as another smart move that could have lasting effects as a COVID-19 surge is possible this fall.

Pennsylvanians have done an excellent job at demonstrating how to balance business and public health,” Wolf said. If we keep this up, we can continue to be a model to other states and a leader at saving lives and livelihoods during this pandemic.”

Wolf indicated this week that red-phase shutdowns are unlikely in the future, because he is hoping that local municipalities identify problem spots and deal with them in an immediate, surgical way.

As you know, this cautious approach to reopening the state has had its consequences. Some businesses have closed their doors for good. Despite federal, state and local assistance programs, some businesses did not have the backup capital to weather the storm. Others are hanging on by a thread.

The pace of reopening using Pennsylvania’s red-yellow-green system and determining which businesses were essential and which received waivers to stay open resulted in sharp criticism of Wolf and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

Saying some of these measures were crippling businesses and industries, Republican legislators tried to intervene to reverse Wolf’s state of emergency order, but the state Supreme Court ruled in Wolf’s favor. This brought about the feeble impeachment ploy.

With Pennsylvania having between 450 and 995 cases daily for several weeks now, this number is significantly lower than the nearly 10,000 average of daily cases showing up in hot spots such as Florida.

In late April when coronavirus cases were dropping in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis began bragging about how his administration had taken steps to control the virus. He even imposed a quarantine on New York state residents, then the epicenter of the pandemic in this country, and this move won the praise of fellow Republican, President Donald Trump.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not forgotten DeSantis’ cavalier attitude toward Empire State residents. “You played politics with this virus, and you lost,” Cuomo said to DeSantis. Pennsylvania has joined New Jersey, New York and several other northeastern states in strongly recommending that anyone coming from or going to 15 hot spot states should self-isolate for 14 days.

These states are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

There were significant numbers of area residents who were on golfing and gambling outings in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Las Vegas during the long Fourth of July holiday, according to records at Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and Newark airports. Many area residents also fled to the New Jersey beaches and the Atlantic City casinos where there were sizable crowds.

How all of this will affect our residents in the coming week to 10 days should be a snapshot on how safe it is for us to continue enjoying the summer season away from home.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com