Pennsylvania becomes latest coronavirus battleground as Trump prods Democratic governor to ‘move quickly’


Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday warned on Twitter of "consequences" for counties that defy his domestic orders and plans for a gradual re-opening of the state's economy. Pennsylvania has seen 61,086 coronavirus cases and 3,899 deaths – the fifth highest in the nation – as of Tuesday, according to tracking information from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Wolf is moving counties through a "red-yellow-green" phase reopening, with 37 scheduled to be in the "yellow" phase by the end of this week. But others still in the more restrictive "red" phase – as well as some businesses in these counties – have said they will defy Wolf's orders and reopen anyway. The "red" phase restricts restaurants to implement, shutting down everyone except important businesses, banning large gatherings and leaving children home from school.

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Several counties have said they will move from the "red" phase to "yellow" without the approval of Wolf's administration.

"Enough is enough. It's time to open the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and return our state to the people (as prescribed by our Constitution) and not govern it as a dictatorship," Jeff Haste, a Republican and chairman of the Dauphin County Commissioners, said in a letter addressed to "People of Pennsylvania."

Trump seems to be pushing local Pennsylvania authorities who have tried to defy Wolf's order going forward.

On Monday morning, the president tweeted: "The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what it means. Democrats are moving slowly, across the United States, for political purposes. They would wait until November 3 if it was up to them. Don't play politics. Be safe, go fast! "

Wolf, 71, is a typical low-key Democrat first elected in 2014 when he defeated Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. He was re-elected in 2018 and defeated Republican challenger Scott Wagner by 17 percentage points. But the coronavirus pandemic has driven governors into the national political spotlight, with Wolf the latest among them.

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The governor said Monday that he would withhold federal stimulus money from counties that ignored his order. He also said that businesses that violate state order will run the risk of being sued and restaurants may receive citations that could cost their liquor license.

"We are fighting a war that has taken the lives of many people. And we are winning," Wolf said on Twitter. "The politicians who encourage us to join the fight act in a most cowardly way."

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Trump will visit Pennsylvania on Thursday for a trip with a medical supply distributor in Allentown while pushing for a quick financial setback even as the nation's top contagious expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned it to return to work and school too quickly could aggravate the pandemic.

"There is a real risk of triggering an outbreak that you may not be able to control, which in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only to cause some suffering and death to be avoided, but to and with being able to put you back on the road to try to get financial improvement, " Fauci told lawmakers Tuesday.

The Battle of Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state in the November parliamentary election between Trump and supposed Democratic nominee Joe Biden, comes weeks after a similar battle in Michigan, another key state for Trump's reelection this fall. There, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued restrictive stay-at-home orders that led to small protests, which Trump seemed to egg on. In mid-April, he tweeted a call to "LIBERATE" Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia, all states with Democratic governors.

Trump announced his upcoming visit to Allentown on Tuesday.

Wolf later told reporters that the president had not told him about his plans to visit the state.

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"I want to encourage everyone who comes to Pennsylvania to respect our efforts to stay safe," Wolf said.

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In an apparent reference to Trump failing to wear face masks during other recent incidents, Wolf added: "No matter where he visits, he hopes to do everything in his power to keep employees safe."

Wolf also told reporters Tuesday that he is "frustrated."

"What I'm trying to do is keep people safe, and I think that should be something that everyone in Pennsylvania should gather around, including politicians. And to the extent that they don't, I think they're doing a bear service to the people they serve , "said the governor.

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