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Wolf just doesn’t see (green) light

On a day that Gov. Tom Wolf called counties “cowardly” for planning to defy his lockdown orders, his administration demonstrated exactly why Pennsylvanians have doubts about his administration’s leadership.

In a recent briefing, Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine was asked about criteria for counties wanting to move from yellow status to green and whether all Pennsylvania counties had to be yellow before any could earn green status.

She said those items haven’t been determined yet.

Huh?

While state officials might not have thought about what it should take, we’re sure thousands — if not millions — of Pennsylvanians have.

Today marks two months since Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all nonessential businesses statewide to close. The shutdown came with a devastating costs to businesses and families. For some, the misery and peril continues to mount and could lead to business closures and/or bankruptcies.

While Wolf’s closing order was instantaneous, the path to reopening has been slow and plodding. And given Wolf’s comments about the danger of reopening too early, one has to wonder if he wouldn’t prefer that the state remain in lockdown indefinitely, no matter the economic toll.

Even under the yellow status — the least restrictive currently allowed by Wolf — congregate care and prison facilities remain off-limits to visitors; schools are closed; restaurants and bars can only offer carryout and delivery; and recreational, health clubs, gyms, spas, hair and nail salons, massage therapy and all entertainment venues remain closed.

In addition, some businesses and offices also must remain shuttered.

So is it any wonder people are interested in knowing the criteria for a county to go to green status? According to the Wolf plan, green status would lift many of these restrictions. But wording still leaves some wiggle room for limits.

And, because there is no obvious defined criteria to earn green status, it remains a moving target, such as has been the case from moving from red to yellow.

In the absence of defined parameters that can provide a goal and hope for the rules to be further eased, the governor should not be surprised if counties or individual businesses take it upon themselves to defy the restrictions, especially from people who believe their livelihoods are at stake.

It also will fuel an underground, unregulated and untaxed economy as Pennsylvanians who cannot access legitimate services such as barber shops and hair salons seek those services off the books and out of sight. It’s happening and it will grow because the state has failed to develop criteria for these services to resume.

Throughout the pandemic, the lack of clear criteria for reopening has been a sore spot for Pennsylvanians, business leaders and local officials.

Wolf may see it as “cowardly” for people and counties to take measures into their own hands. But when the situation looks dire and officials offer no hope for things in improve, people will act in their own best interests.

Despite what Wolf thinks, it’s not being cowardly. It’s a sign of desperation. Wolf’s slurs and threats won’t change that equation.

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