Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf extended a shutdown order Monday to the entire state of Pennsylvania in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus, although he also maintained that he will not send the National Guard or state police to force businesses to close or stop events.
Wolf acted in similar fashion as neighboring states, including Ohio, New York and New Jersey, as he closed schools statewide and a range of government offices in the days leading up to Monday.
The shutdown of nonessential government offices and nonessential business activity began Tuesday and will last for at least two weeks, he said.
“This isn’t a decision that I take lightly at all,” Wolf said during a news conference at the headquarters of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. “It’s one that I’m making because medical experts believe it’s the only way we can prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed by patients.”
State-owned liquor stores were directed to shut down after being open Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Day, and restaurants were to end dine-in service.
Wolf had in recent days issued similar orders for four heavily populated southeastern Pennsylvania counties – Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery – where the state has confirmed most of its cases of COVID-19, while Philadelphia took a similar step Monday.
The number of positive cases in Pennsylvania grew Monday, surpassing 75.
Wolf’s order is a blend of voluntary and mandatory actions. For instance, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said it was suspending gambling operations for all casinos. Wolf on Sunday night ordered bars and restaurants in five counties to close dine-in service and said businesses that do not adhere to the order could face penalties.
Still, he also said that he would not use force to close businesses, but he urged people to understand that all Pennsylvanians are in the fight together and said they owe it to one another not to spread the disease.
“People will be making their decisions what they do with their lives all across the commonwealth for the next days and weeks and months,” Wolf said in response to a reporter’s question about racetracks refusing to close unless forced. “What we ought to do is think not what should we do in terms what the law is, but what should we do in terms of what we owe to our fellow citizens.”
Wolf’s orders in recent days have often caused confusion and required clarification or adjustments.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court gave local judges the ability to shut down county courthouses as needed and the Pennsylvania Turnpike interchanges will no longer take cash or credit cards.
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