Governor: Pennsylvania more prepared now than six months ago to fight coronavirus

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Pennsylvania has “successfully reopened” its economy six months after the first COVID-19 cases reached the Keystone State, Gov. Tom Wolf said.

However, some state lawmakers continue to take the governor to task over his decision to veto a bill empowering local school districts to decide how spectators can watch high school sports.

“We’re far more prepared to fight COVID-19 now than we were just six months ago,” Wolf said during a Monday news conference.

Pennsylvania reported its first two presumptive cases on March 6. On Tuesday, the state reported 151,646 total COVID-19 cases and 8,023 deaths from the virus during the course of the pandemic, which originated in China. the vast majority of those who have been infected have recovered.

“In the early days of the pandemic, this administration took numerous steps to secure sources of PPE to ensure that Pennsylvanians were protected and that our health system was not overwhelmed,” Wolf said in a news release. “Our proactive and ongoing efforts to secure PPE, coupled with the flexibility and ingenuity displayed by Pennsylvania’s business community, helped us secure and allocate PPE.

“Because of the steps we took, our hospitals were not overburdened, and our medical system was not strained,” Wolf added. “Now, six months after the virus first appeared in the commonwealth, we can say with confidence that we are prepared to stay safe as we continue to fight this pandemic.”

While Wolf and state officials took a moment to laud their efforts fighting the pandemic, state Republicans continued to criticize the governor for vetoing House Bill 2787.

“The governor does not have a corner on the market when it comes to caring about people’s health and taking this virus seriously,” state Rep. Mike Reese, R-Westmoreland/Somerset, said in a statement. “But what kind of life are we living when we are still separated from our loved ones, denied opportunities to support our children, driving so many small business owners out of business and sending their workers to a wreck of an unemployment compensation system.”

Last week, Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine signed orders allowing restaurants to increase their indoor occupancy to 50 percent.

“Wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and following the requirements set forth in the orders for bars and restaurants, gatherings, and telework will help keep our case counts low,” Levine said in a statement. “Together, as Pennsylvanians, all of our efforts are designed to support our communities to ensure that cases of COVID-19 remain low.”

While the move offers some semblance of a return to normal, a WalletHub analysis found Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has bounced back among the slowest of any state nationwide. In August, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate 10.3 percent, which was down 2.2 percentage points from July; it is, however, higher than the national average of 8.4 percent.

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