May. 21, 2020

These are challenging times in our Commonwealth and our country. I have heard many people – including our governor – say “We’re all in this together.” It’s a nice sentiment, but is it true?

Are we all in this together when one man – Gov. Tom Wolf – single-handedly shuts down businesses he deems non-essential, taking away people’s abilities to provide for themselves and their families?

Are we all in this together when two businesses that perform the same tasks appeal for waivers from the administration and one is approved and one is denied, without any explanation? Or when the governor’s former cabinet-making business receives a waiver while many other manufacturers – not to mention construction crews that would install such cabinets – were forced to close?

Are we all in this together when Secretary of Health Rachel Levine moves her own mother out of a personal care home regulated by the state while at the same time mandating the state’s nursing homes accept COVID-positive patients? No doubt as a direct result of this policy, nearly 70% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have taken place in nursing, personal care and long-term care facilities. It’s unconscionable.

Are we all in this together when nearly 2.2 million of our fellow citizens have been forced to rely on a ridiculously inept unemployment compensation system to pay their bills and feed their families? Many have waited as long as seven to eight weeks or more to receive the help they so desperately need.

Are we all in this together when our governor chooses to align himself with six other governors in the northeastern United States to develop a plan to reopen rather than consult with the duly elected members of the House and Senate – the separate but EQUAL branch of state government closest to the citizens we represent?

Are we all in this together when this governor, who was elected to serve the people, stands up and calls our citizens, business owners and government leaders “cowards” and “deserters” because they intend to move forward with reopening their local economies regardless of the governor’s dictates? Even though statistics show those areas meet the administration’s identified metrics for reopening?

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I acknowledge there is no guidebook out there to help any of us – elected officials, business owners, citizens, etc. – navigate through a pandemic. Public health and safety have been of the utmost importance from the start, and the governor took the necessary steps to “flatten the curve” to prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

Medical experts here and in our surrounding states agree that we have not only met our objective but are also warning of the dangers of continuing the status quo. In a hearing before the state Senate last week, UPMC’s chief medical officer said, “What we cannot do is extend social isolation.” Furthermore, Dr. Cyril Wecht, renowned forensic pathologist and longtime Allegheny County coroner, as well as officials in the United Nations have also warned of the deadly effects of continuing our state’s and nation’s social and economic shutdown.

Yet, while our neighbors in Ohio and West Virginia have reopened their states, Pennsylvania remains in limbo. Fayette and Westmoreland counties are among more than half of the state’s counties now in the governor’s “yellow phase” of reopening, which has allowed some businesses to resume operations while others still wait and hope they get the “green light” to reopen when the region is moved to the governor’s “green phase” of reopening. Problem is, no one knows what it takes to get to green or what it means when we get there.

The people of Pennsylvania – the people the governor has been repeatedly asking to remain patient – deserve better. They’ve dutifully stayed home. They’ve stayed away from friends and family members. Many have continued to work but as much as ONE-THIRD of the state’s labor force has been cut off from their life-sustaining work and now wait for unemployment benefits.

If we are truly all “in this together” then it is time for the governor to end his authoritarian rule. It is time for him to end unilateral decisions. If we are all in this together then it is time to restore democracy and give legislative power back to the people of this Commonwealth – where it belongs.

Representative Ryan Warner
52nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Patricia Hippler
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