Pennsylvania families and businesses are under some of the most extreme COVID-19 restrictions in the country, according to a new report, and Gov. Tom Wolf’s latest round of restrictions on bars and restaurants are a key part of the reason.
A new ranking of the states with the fewest COVID-19 restrictions by the data analysts at Wallethub lists South Dakota as the most open state in America, followed by Wisconsin and Oklahoma.
Pennsylvania, on the other hand, ranks 49 and is only surpassed in COVID-19 restrictions by New Jersey and California. (The survey also includes the District of Columbia).
The rankings look at criteria such as requirements to wear face masks in public, travel restrictions, and whether a statewide school restart date is scheduled, among other factors.
“Pennsylvania moved from 28 to 49, down 21 positions. This is due in part to the fact that the state has a new limit on large gatherings of 25 or below, has limited dine-in service and has newly closed bars,” WalletHub noted.
Meanwhile, the Keystone State seems to have flip-flopped with New York, which shot from 45 up to 29, because “the state only advises [that] high-risk groups quarantine and has expanded large gatherings to a new limit above 25.”
Last week, Gov. Wolf announced new restrictions lowering the indoor dining capacity of restaurants from 50 percent to 25. He also ruled that alcohol sales are only allowed with a meal. Indoor gatherings were capped at 25 people, and outdoor gatherings at 250.
“This is what we have to do,” Wolf said. “It may feel like a step backwards, but it isn’t. It’s just a reminder that we need to get back on the course of mask wearing, social distancing and successfully mitigating COVID-19.”
Many business and industry leaders have been critical of the move.
Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association CEO John Longstreet tweeted a story about a Montgomery County restaurant which had said, “We can’t survive this way.”
Montgomery County Restaurant, Bar Owners Say ‘We Can’t Survive This Way’ After Gov. Wolf Imposes New Capacity Restrictions – CBS Philly https://t.co/r4cB6Eh0Yy
— John Longstreet (@PRLACEO) July 17, 2020
The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association is calling on Wolf to approve a relief package for the industry, according to PennLive.com.
In the Delaware Valley, Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry President Guy Ciarrocchi said the latest move is in keeping with the tight grip Gov. Wolf has exercised from the beginning.
“We knew from the beginning — all of us in the “chamber” world and the public policy world — that our standards were some of the most strict in the nation,” Ciarrocchi told Delaware Valley Journal.
“We were the only state in the nation, for example, that banned outdoor construction. So, highway projects went to a standstill, which was somewhat ironic in that 9 out of 10 people were staying home, it seemed to be a great time to repave roads and shore up bridges when there wouldn’t be traffic.
“We were one of the only states to prohibit even online car sales until very late in the process,” he added. Ciarrocchi’s chamber has been running a #ReopenChesco campaign for several weeks now.
Republicans in Harrisburg have been taking aim at Wolf’s restrictions since they began.
Most recently, the Pennsylvania House voted to approve constitutional changes that would limit a governor’s emergency powers. Republicans control that chamber, but seven Democrats also voted in favor.
“In order to become law, an amendment must pass the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions, after which the amendment is placed on the ballot for voters to approve or reject,” PennLive reported.
The move comes just weeks after Republican lawmakers passed a resolution to rescind Wolf’s original emergency declaration for the coronavirus outbreak. Wolf vetoed the bill, but it was not immediately clear if he had the power to do so.
The state Supreme Court later ruled he did, and the resolution became moot.