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Pennsylvania Renews Coronavirus Disaster Declaration for 90 Days

The House returns to session and a renewed effort is afoot in the chamber to thwart the governor’s emergency powers by overriding Wolf’s veto of a bill that would let the Legislature force him to end the disaster declaration.

by Jan Murphy, The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa. / September 1, 2020
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a news conference outside WellSpan York Hospital July 21, 2020. TNS
(TNS) - For the second time since the first two presumptive positive cases of the coronavirus appeared in Pennsylvania on March 6, Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday renewed the state’s disaster declaration for the pandemic for another 90 days.
 
“As we approach the six-month mark of this crisis, I continue to be amazed at the resiliency and strength shown by Pennsylvanians during this pandemic,” Wolf said in a statement. “We are going to continue to combat the health and economic effects of COVID-19, and the renewal of my disaster declaration will provide us with resources and support needed for this effort.”
 
This comes at a time when the House returns to voting session and a renewed effort is afoot in the chamber to try to thwart the governor’s emergency powers by overriding Wolf’s veto of a bill that would allow the Legislature to force the governor to end the disaster declaration.
 
“When we return to session next week, we will be prioritizing the need to hold Governor Wolf accountable and return power to the people by attempting to override the governor’s veto of House Resolution 836,” Jason Gottesman, a spokesperson for House Republicans, told Spotlight PA last week. “The Wolf administration’s handling of this pandemic has cost lives and livelihoods and their actions should no longer continue unchecked.”
 
The emergency disaster declaration provides for the continuation of increased support to state agencies involved in the response to the virus and recovery for the state during reopening. This includes expediting supply procurement, lifting certain regulations to allow for efficient and effective mitigation, and waiving certain rules..
 
Among the relief that this declaration provides includes waiving the one-week waiting period to receive unemployment compensation, work search requirements, and registering with PA CareerLink for applicants. It also suspends numerous training requirements and certification and licensure renewals for health care professionals, child care workers, direct care workers, direct support professionals, among others who provide services to our children, seniors, and vulnerable residents.
 
It further allows the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to assign the National Guard to provide various types of support for long-term care facilities, including providing direct patient care support, ancillary support, and testing, and at community-based testing sites. It also provides PEMA with the ability to leverage continued federal support such as non-congregate sheltering.
 
The renewed disaster declaration will also allow PEMA to rapidly scale response efforts and employ new intervention tactics, such as the administration of a vaccine.
 
Meanwhile, the percentage of positive coronavirus tests continues to drop across Pennsylvania for the fifth straight week, but the Wolf Administration reported on Monday that nine counties bear watching for COVID-19 infections. Those counties and their positivity rates are: Columbia (13.5%), Armstrong (8.3%), Perry (6.9%), Northumberland (6.7%), Potter (5.9%), Beaver (5.7%), Dauphin (5.3%), Fulton (5.3%) and York (5.0%).
 
The number of new cases has dropped steadily in the month of August after climbing in late June and throughout July. The state hasn’t reported more than 1,000 new cases in a single day since July 28.
 
The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 521 new coronavirus cases on Monday. Statewide, more than 134,000 people have contracted the virus and more than 7,600 people have died.
 
Jan Murphy may be reached at jmurphy@pennlive.com. Follow her on Twitter at @JanMurphy.
 
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©2020 The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.)
 
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