Editor’s corner: Wolf’s edict grip keeps us guessing

Gov. Tom Wolf

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s press conference on Aug. 6 was coming to an end when a question was posed regarding high school sports. Wolf did not delay in responding.

“The guidance is we ought to avoid any congregant settings,” he said. “And that means anything that brings people together is going to help that virus get us and we ought to do everything we can to defeat the virus at any time. … So the guidance from us, the recommendation is we don’t do any sports until Jan. 1.

Immediately after that statement, he exited the briefing. No follow-up questions taken. No additional guidance offered.

One man’s order. Another organization’s dilemma, in this case the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Welcome to the continued uncomfortable era that comes from one official having significant edict ability during the COVID-19 crisis. Wolf had already extended the declaration for an additional 90 days in June, but received some pushback from Senate Republicans who took their case to the state Supreme Court to no avail.

Wolf, for the time being, remains in command. For some, that is a tough pill to swallow.

But there could be a case made that his leadership through this — though far from perfect — has been fairly solid. Pennsylvania was one of the first states to move ahead with the closing of schools in the spring when our knowledge of the virus was still in the early stages.

Since March, there has been more than 127,000 cases statewide. Obviously, the areas impacted most are around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In Warren County, the numbers have actually fluctuated somewhere around 23.

Nationally, the situation has been much different. As the northeast has gained some control in regard to the spread, it is a tire fire in South and the West.

New York state, which has more than two times the cases as this Commonwealth, is facing the same dilemma with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Though Cuomo has been seen nationally as a leader in reducing the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths since the spring, there is a struggle over his emergency edicts as well.

For the first 100 days of the crisis, Cuomo was in the spotlight giving a dose of statistics and heart-felt anecdotes that resonated with many who were homebound for a stretch of more than two months during his daily briefings that occurred during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. No matter how dark the situation, there was no doubt. Cuomo was in command.

Even some of those opposed to Cuomo’s policies and politics were impressed with his handling of the crisis.

This state was ground zero from the start of the COVID-19, due in part to New York City’s population and its significance around the globe in terms of being a destination and a financial capital.

With numbers trending down, and not up, just how much authority do these governors really need? When does the balance between the legislatures and executive return?

Lawmakers’ hands in both states are tied — and it’s due in part to their own decisions. COVID-19 is an infection that, at this point, has no end. Just like the emergency powers of both governors.

John D’Agostino is the regional editor for the Times Observer, The Post-Journal and the OBSERVER in Dunkirk, N.Y. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call (716) 487-1111, ext. 253.


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