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Candidates for state offices react to Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan

Each week the Sun-Gazette will feature responses from candidates running for state offices on issues pertinent to Lycoming County voters leading up to the primary election on June 2.

The candidates are: 23rd Senate, Gen Yaw (incumbent), Republican, and Jackie Baker, Democrat; 83rd House, Jeff Wheeland (incumbent), Republican, and Airneezer Page, Democrat; 84th House, Republicans Mike Dincher, Joe Hamm and David Hines, and Democrat Amanda Waldman.

Question: What do you think of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan for reopening the state? How would you do it differently?

Yaw: “I’m not sure what his plan is. There is very little detail. People have no idea on going from yellow to green. He has no plan and that has been part of the problem throughout this pandemic. Nobody knew anything about this virus. Closing down was probably the way to go. Now, we have lots of data. Seventy percent of problems are in nursing homes, so there is no reason to lock up the rest of the community. I would concentrate on nursing homes. A lot of problems arise out of the Department of Health and the failure to monitor problems out of these nursing homes. I would open up the rest of the population. People need to go back to work.”

Baker: “So far, I have agreed with the governor’s opening plan based on science and doctors. I haven’t had any personal complaint about it because protecting our heath and safety is the government’s job. I haven’t read through his entire plan, but so far I agree. I don’t want us to reopen and then have a virus and be shut down even longer. I think it’s important to open safely with social distancing and wearing masks. We are nowhere near ready for a complete reopening. We don’t have the supplies we need to open fully. I can’t even get hand sanitizers. Health and safety is my concern.”

Wheeland: “The governor, like most governors, shut down for two primary reasons. Number one was to make certain that we didn’t overload our health systems. The number two reason was because we were unsure of what kind of virus we were dealing with. Pennsylvanians did such a good job under the governor’s shutdown that we did not overload the health systems. We now know the virus we are dealing with. The issue I have with the governor’s shutdown orders is that so many of them made little common sense if indeed his goal was social separation. An example was shutting down the small businesses and overloading the big box stores such as Lowe’s. Another problem was the waiver process where some businesses received waivers and others did not. Another issue I had with the governor and his team is the lack of transparency on how these decisions were made. He should have involved all three branches of government in the decision process. Plus, accurate data should have been forthcoming of coronavirus information.”

Page: “My heart goes out to those who have lost their jobs in this pandemic, but I have concerns about opening up businesses right now. I don’t think they should open up. I understand there are those that can maintain social distancing such as construction companies and those enterprises performing outdoors jobs. I think we have to take caution with many businesses. My concern is with those most vulnerable to the pandemic, the elderly and others. We have to remember that you can be asymptomatic and still have the virus. It concerns me that some employees in stores are failing to follow proper guidelines for the virus. We need more testing so we can really stop this pandemic. I support Gov. Wolf in what he is doing. He has the responsibility of keeping safe peoples’ lives when he opens up businesses. My heart goes out to those affected by this. It’s a community problem that everyone has to work together to solve. If we can become more creative in how to open up businesses, that would be worth pursuing.”

Dincher: “I’m not sure I would have shut it down like he did. I think it was public knowledge that the elderly were high risk. I think there were a lot of options. What we could have done is allowed different people, depending on their work, to return to the job in increments. Why were construction crews ever prohibited from working? There are many factories where the workers aren’t that close together. It was overreacting. People don’t realize the impact this has had on the economy. It seems like this whole thing favored the big companies and hurt the small businesses. Fortunately, landscapers were allowed to work. It was picking and choosing.”

Hamm: “I think the governor was put in a tough position and had a lot of tough decisions to make. I believe he made several mistakes. The first mistake being that he didn’t work with the Legislature on a plan for Pennsylvania. Next, his plans lacked transparency and openness. Finally, he had a one-size-fits-all plan, which was a mistake. I would have used all resources to put a comprehensive regional plan together for Pennsylvania. I would have reviewed the hotspots in Pennsylvania and made one determination for those areas and another determination for areas that were not in coronavirus hot spots. Ultimately, this governor has hurt small business owners and hurt residents just trying to put food on their tables.”

Hines: “It breaks your heart that a lot of these small business couldn’t open earlier. I understand that this virus is very contagious, but by keeping the businesses closed down for so long, we have created bigger issues and it’s going to take us a long time to recuperate. You can’t just throw money at the problem, although it does help. I always supported those in authority and I won’t make criticisms because that could be me some day making the hard decisions. The reason I’m running is to make the laws or get rid of the regulations that aren’t working for the greatest good of all. I would have opened up the small businesses a lot sooner.”

Waldman: “It’s pretty easy to armchair quarterback. I think he is doing the best he can. We are all in this together. I don’t know what I would do differently, maybe make sure the smallest of businesses were funded first. Pennsylvania hasn’t spent a lot on its infrastructure. We still don’t have broadband in a lot of areas. So transitioning from home wasn’t possible for a lot of people. We overloaded the unemployment system to prevent people from getting compensated. I don’t envy the governor because he has a tough job. He did the best he could given the circumstances.”

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