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Wolf defends orders to close businesses

Gov. Tom Wolf ordered on Thursday that all businesses not deemed “life-sustaining” close.

He discussed the rationale behind the decision during a Friday afternoon press event.

“It was not made easily,” he said of the decision. “The spread of COVID-19 is increasing at a rapid pace. New cases are beginning to appear in other (counties) that suggest community spread is happening.” There are “new cases in new counties each day in every part of the state.

“I cannot allow these surging numbers to overwhelm… our hospitals,” he continued, explaining that limiting exposure will result in “fewer Pennsylvanians (that) will become sick at the same time.”

He said the list was constructed in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Asked about enforcement, Wolf said local agencies should “use local enforcement resources” and said that the Pennsylvania State Police will be utilized “to enforce the rules we’ve put in place.”

By Friday evening, Wolf’s administration issued new guidance that granted exceptions to the timber industry, coal mining, hotels, accountants, laundromats and law firms permitted by the courts. It also delayed enforcement from Saturday to Monday.

Wolf acknowledged that he understands the concerns but said “these are unchartered waters.”

“We’re going to do the best we can from preventing our hospital system from crashing.”

He outlined that there is a waiver process through the Department of Community and Economic Development for businesses who believe they should be exempt from the mandated shutdown.

“Please continue to telework and work remotely if you can,” he said. Lessons learned from other counties have indicated that the “only way to contain this virus is to take aggressive, decisive action.

“We are in an unprecedented crisis. This is going to get more difficult before it gets better…. My heart goes out to everyone in the Commonwealth.”

He didn’t offer specific answers on whether the presidential primary might be delayed or whether schools will stay shuttered beyond the additional two week closure.

On the school closure issue, he said he is “not decided” on an extension but said it is “something that is certainly up for conversations.”

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