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Is There Still a COVID Emergency? Local Members of Congress Vote ‘Yes’

Most Delaware Valley residents have long ago moved passed the “emergency” phase of COVID-19, returning to work and school, rarely wearing masks, and regularly gathering in groups.

But when a bill came before the U.S. House of Representatives last week declaring an end to the pandemic emergency that has been renewed a dozen times since March 2020, the Democrats representing the Delaware Valley all voted “no.” Only Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks/Montgomery) voted against it.

The data don’t appear to support the idea that a pandemic emergency still exists. On February 2 of this year, the seven-day average of daily COVID deaths was 22. One year earlier it was 157. According to available data, January 2021 was the month with the highest average deaths in Pennsylvania, a number that has plunged in the two years since.

So, why did local members of Congress vote against a resolution passed in a bipartisan vote declaring “the national emergency declared by the finding of the President on March 13, 2020, in Proclamation 9994 (85 Fed. Reg. 15337) is hereby terminated”?

All three congressional Democrats — Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia), and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks) — declined to answer questions about their votes.

Republican consultant Charlie O’Neill said he believes he has the answer.

“The Democrats in Washington, D.C. want the COVID crisis to continue forever. Why? The answer is it gives the government unchecked power in broad areas of American life,” O’Neill said. “However, even President Biden is noticing the continued use of ‘emergency powers’ is losing its popularity with the American public. The more they cling to COVID, the further from the voters they move.”

Richard Booker, a lawyer and former Radnor commissioner, said he was surprised by the vote.

“That’s crazy,” said Booker. “Why would we need to continue that? It’s only a way to continue to minimize accountability and maximize government power. They take no responsibility for the consequences of emergency actions. We’re not in a pandemic anymore.”

Dave Sommers, a Republican candidate for county commissioner in Chester County said, “They love government overreach.”

Soon after taking office last month, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro ordered 2,300 state workers who had been working from home to go back to the office. Republicans had urged his predecessor, fellow Democrat Tom Wolf, to make that move.

“It’s time,” said state Rep. Seth Grove (R-York), according to PennLive. “People need to get back to work. COVID is over. To an extent, telework policies are helpful like when you got a sick kid. There are a lot of positives to it. But generally, you should be at work working, especially when you are in positions that answer the phone and are accountable to residents. You need the workforce back.”

President Joe Biden has said he plans to end the pandemic emergency in May. That might affect federal money states receive and also test kits and vaccines that are paid for by the federal government.

Most of the measures put imposed at the height of the pandemic, such as quarantine rules, closing schools and businesses, and mandating masks, were put into place by state governors.

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