Coronavirus in Pennsylvania: G.O.P. Defiance of Lockdown Has 2020 Implications

It was an impressive rebuke by a governor.

While resistance to blockade orders explodes across the country, often with a party tone, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has sought a military metaphor to accuse Republican officials of defection in the battle against the pandemic.


"For those politicians who decide to give in to this coronavirus", Wolf said on Monday, addressing county lawmakers who challenged their housewives guidelines, "they need to understand the consequences of their cowardly act".

The governor's comments, in a moderate way, raised the temperature of a national debate on the health emergency, one of which was attended by President Trump while he shouts at protesters in state capitol, including Harrisburg, and by congressmen in Congress, where top government health officials have warned this week of dire consequences if the economy reopens too soon.

On Thursday, the president arrived in Pennsylvania, one of several field states crucial to his re-election, where political fighting to limit the number of people killed by the virus or to alleviate its economic devastation could have heavy consequences in November. While 26% of the state's workforce filed for unemployment, the governor is relying on metrics about the spread of the virus to keep many people in their homes and all businesses, except those that support life, in populous regions.


Republicans, feeling angry at the gut level in rural and urban areas after nearly two months of restrictions, see a problem with the potential to provoke voter participation in a state in which Trump, as elsewhere in the industrial and political region, Midwest, needs increased support to repeat its narrow 2016 victory. In Wisconsin, also an unstable state, the State Supreme Court sided with Republicans on Wednesday and threw out the order to stay home Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat. In Texas, armed men appeared to support companies that defy government orders to remain closed, an extreme sign of the politicization of social distance rules.

At the same time, polls show that Wolf, like other governors moving cautiously and meeting scientific criteria to reopen, is enjoying record support, including among many Republicans.


Trump seemed to address Wolf on Monday via Twitter. "The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now and are fully aware of what that entails," he tweeted. "Democrats are moving slowly, across the country, for political purposes."

The governor's cowardice charge was directed at officials in a handful of counties led by Republicans who said they would challenge his timeline to reopen business. Mr. Wolf partially lifted the restrictions on 37 municipalities, mainly in rural regions where the community spread of the virus is more easily contained.

But with the rest of the state, including its populous southeast, still under strict orders to stay home until June 4, officials in some municipalities said they would ignore the governor and would open from Friday.

"The health crisis is real, but the economic devastation is also real," said Josh Parsons, Lancaster County Commissioner, one of those moving to ease restrictions, despite not meeting all of the governor's health criteria.


He described “chaos on the floor” as people who have openly ignored orders to stay home for the past few weeks. "People are voting with their feet and going back to work because they need to," he said.


Some Republican strategists said the issue of Pennsylvania's reopening would add motivation to stand up to Trump against the Democratic Party in November.

"I felt a very, very strong reaction inside the country," said Charlie Gerow, a Pennsylvania Republican strategist.

Trump conquered Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes in 2016. To make up for population growth and the growing anger of his presidency in the suburbs of Philadelphia, which raised Democrats in the last elections, he needs more support among white men, with and without a diploma university.

"My sense is that there are a significant number of voters who did not vote in 2016 for any reason who will vote for President Trump in 2020, and part of that is overcoming Governor Wolf," said Gerow.

At the moment, however, research has shown that far more Pensilvans approve of Wolf's handling of coronaviruses than Trump's.

AN search released this week by the Washington Post / Ipsos, it showed that 72% of Pennsylvania adults approved of how the governor handled the coronavirus outbreak, including 51% of Republicans and Republican independents. Only 45% of all adults in the state supported Trump's treatment of the outbreak.

In addition, seven out of ten Pennsylvania residents said the United States should continue to try to slow the spread of the virus, even if it means keeping companies closed. Almost half of Republicans awake.

"I'm baffled by the Republican plan here," said J.J. Balaban, a Democratic strategist in Pennsylvania. "I think they think it will bring their base together, but it seems to speak to a narrow base that is already irritated, while alienating them from the types of voters they need to take Pennsylvania."

In Lancaster County, as well as others that moved to reopen, despite orders from the governor, the rate of new coronavirus cases remains above 50 per 100,000 people in the previous two weeks, a achieve the management set of Mr. Wolf to move municipalities to a "yellow" phase of partial reopening. Lancaster County also has one of the highest death rates in the state, with 183 from Thursday.

Other counties where Republican officials pledged at the end of last week to challenge the governor include Dauphin, Franklin, Lebanon, Berks and Schuylkill, more or less the Philadelphia region, emerge west of Harrisburg. Some sheriffs and district attorneys said they would not seek business which was opened despite the governor's orders. On Wednesday, after Wolf warned that challenging counties would have consequences, Dauphin County Commissioners indented and said they would not go unilaterally to yellow status.

Lancaster County Commissioner Parsons and other local republican officials argue that the municipality met more important metrics for reopening than the growth of new cases of viruses, including the availability of intensive care beds and ventilators in hospitals. Deaths are high because the county has many nursing homes, he said.

"We need to protect these people in nursing homes, but that does not mean that some people cannot return to work safely and prudently," said Parsons.

On Monday, Wolf threatened to withhold federal aid money for coronaviruses from counties that disobeyed and reopened early.

He also told entrepreneurs who reopened very early that they were at risk of losing occupancy certificates, liquor licenses and insurance. "Insurance does not cover things that happen to companies that break the law," he warned.

State Senate Republican majority leader Jake Corman said the governor's threats "were not worthy of his office".

"He's right or wrong, completely focused on the health side," added Corman. "He is not focused on what carnage the order to stay at home is causing."

Unemployment in the state is 1.7 million, small businesses are at risk of never reopening and there are fears of increased alcoholism and domestic violence.

Trump is due to visit a mask and other protective equipment distribution center on the outskirts of Allentown on Thursday, his 18th visit to Pennsylvania since taking office, according to The Morning Call in Allentown.

The region, the Lehigh Valley, was traditionally a Democratic stronghold, but Trump made a foray there in 2016, while becoming the first Republican to transport Pennsylvania in 28 years.

Since then, Democrats have won big victories in the state, including the inversion of the congressional headquarters that represents the Lehigh Valley in 2018, when Wolf won reelection against a Trump-type opponent. And last year, Democrats broke into municipal elections in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where Republicans dominated.

At the same time, at the opposite end of the state, Republicans have moved forward in union counties outside Pittsburgh, where Democrats have an advantage over registered voters.

Analysts expect Trump to return to Pennsylvania so many times before November that he can claim native status as much as he can. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democratic presidential candidate, born in Scranton.

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