Gov. Tom Wolf Denounces PA Counties Reopening Without His Approval as ‘Cowardly,’ ‘Selfish’

The Democratic governor said counties that do so are risking federal stimulus dollars for coronavirus response.

Cynthia Fernandez/Spotlight PA 

Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and PennLive/Patriot-News.

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf issued a stern rebuke against Pennsylvania counties and businesses that plan to reopen without state approval, calling it a “cowardly act” that could cost those areas federal stimulus money.

Over the past week, a host of lawmakers, district attorneys, and law enforcement agencies in counties still under aggressive mitigation orders said they will defy Wolf and unilaterally move themselves to the next phase of the governor’s reopening plan. State officials have given 37 counties the go-ahead to ease coronavirus restrictions, lifting the stay-at-home order and allowing some businesses to reopen if they follow certain safety precautions.

“These folks are choosing to desert in the face of the enemy. In the middle of a war that we Pennsylvanians are winning, and that we must win,” Wolf said at a news conference Monday. “They need to understand the consequences of their cowardly act.”

Wolf said counties that reopen without state approval could be denied their share of discretionary funding from the federal stimulus. Businesses in these areas that resume operations risk losing certifications required to operate from the Liquor Control Board and the Department of Health.

“To the politicians urging businesses to risk their lives, and to risk the lives of their customers or employees by opening prematurely, you need to understand that they are engaging in behavior that is both selfish and unsafe,” Wolf said.

Pennsylvania’s insurance commissioner on Monday warned businesses that insurance policies may void coverage for companies that are “engaging in illegal acts or conducts,” like reopening without the state’s permission.

“It is the duty of every business and resident in Pennsylvania to ensure that they and the public at large are provided with the maximum level of protection afforded by insurance,” Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said in a statement. “Any actions that could potentially create coverage gaps are the antithesis of the civil duty required of all residents during these times of emergency.”

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