Pennsylvania's statewide stay-at-home order has been extended until May 8, Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Rachel Levine announced on Monday.
The original order, issued on April 1, mandated that all residents stay home and practice social distancing, and all nonessential businesses shut down until April 30. On Monday, however, Wolf urged against resuming operations on May 1, citing the absence of a vaccine and antibody test.
“Without continuing to take precautions, we will all see a resurgence of this deadly virus," Wolf said in an April 21 briefing. "So we cannot relax.”
Wolf’s order comes at the heels of protests at the state Capitol Monday morning for a full reopening of the economy, which has taken a hit since the stay-at-home orders and business closures. The number of Pennsylvanians who have filed for unemployment reached 1.5 million as of Monday, and lawmakers foresee a budget shortfall of up to $4 billion.
Republican lawmakers, including state Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R-Lawrence), were among the protesters at Monday’s rally, calling on Wolf to acknowledge the many lives endangered by the economic shutdown and to sign a bill that would reopen some businesses.
Wolf vetoed the bill on April 15, asserting that reopening businesses too early will enhance the spread of the virus, put more lives at risk, and magnify the economic hardships the pandemic has created.
College first-year and Pennsylvania resident Maliha Hoque said she respects Wolf’s decision. “What the protesters are advocating for is unsafe,” she said. “Opening up small businesses could lead to an even longer stay-at-home order because it will be more difficult to practice social distancing.”
According to health experts, Pennsylvania does not possess the testing capability needed for the economy to reopen, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. As of April 10, the state has reported 113,019 tests — less than 1% of the state’s population of 12.8 million.
Wolf announced in the briefing he hopes to reach the suggested testing capacity by May 8, after which he plans to partially reopen the economy, starting with allowing limited construction and online car sales to take place, and increasing the number of liquor stores that offer curbside pickup.
He added that the sacrifices citizens have made to practice social distancing thus far have paid off, as case numbers have begun to stabilize, but if there is evidence that May 8 is too soon, he will retreat.
“The goal is to keep Pennsylvanians safe, but we also want to give ourselves hope, and we want to start this process back as quickly as we can,” he said.
Engineering first-year and Pennsylvania resident Alex Sun agreed. "Just one bad apple can spoil the barrel, and in this case, our bad apple is the coronavirus,” he said. “People are naive to think more people will not be affected if we open up the economy too soon.”
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