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State and Local Officials to Begin Shutdown Enforcement

by on March 22, 2020 5:20 PM

State and local law enforcement and agencies are set to begin enforcement actions for "non-life-sustaining" businesses that are not in compliance with the closure order issued by Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Enforcement will begin at 8 a.m. on Monday. Wolf originally told more than 150 categories of non-life-sustaining businesses and organizations to close or stop physical operations at 8 p.m. on Thursday and said enforcement would begin at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday. But after setting up a waiver process and further clarifying what qualified as "life-sustaining," the enforcement timing was pushed back. 

Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development Dennis Davin said on Sunday the state had received more than 10,000 waiver requests, about half of which had been reviewed to that point. Businesses that have been categorized as non-life-sustaining but believe they should continue operating can apply for a waiver online.

State police, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture and local officials have been directed to enforce the closures. Non-compliant businesses would face summary offenses punishable by fines and even jail time, as well as possible loss of licensing.

“We believe most Pennsylvanians want to act responsibly and do their part to help slow the spread of this deadly virus. Troopers and liquor control officers will make every effort to achieve voluntary compliance by educating business owners and using discretion when appropriate" State Police Commissioner Col. Robert Evanchick said in a statement. "But our message is clear: COVID-19 is a serious health and public safety risk that requires an extraordinary response from law enforcement and the public. I urge everyone to stay home, stay calm and stay safe.”

Local municipalities and police received similar guidance from the state. 

State College Borough said in a news release that "enforcement officials will make the enforcement of the Governor’s Order a high priority in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.  "

Health Officer Brian O'Donnell sent letters to food establishments and all other businesses that fall under the closure order about enforcement action. Restaurants may continue operating takeout and delivery service, but are prohibited from providing dine-in service.

"The Borough of State College Division of Health is prepared to immediately suspend the retail food facility license of any retail food facility that fails to comply with this temporary emergency requirement," O'Donnell wrote to food establishment owners, "I would also note that any establishment that refuse to cooperate with the order may be in jeopardy of losing any government issued COVID-19 coronavirus relief assistance that may be offered in the future."

O'Donnell also advised those businesses that are permitted to stay open to closely follow social distancing, hygiene and other mitigation guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Health.

Among the various businesses that will remain open are grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, food and beverage production, repair services, telecommunication providers, restaurant takeout/delivery, hotels, medical facilities, beer distributors and others. Municipal services also will continue.

Businesses and services mandated to close range from entertainment and recreation venues to clothing stores to building construction, and some, but not all, manufacturing, to name a few. Revisions to the list since Thursday night included allowing laundromats and certain manufacturers to stay open.

See the list of what can and cannot operate here.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Sunday reported 108 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the Commonwealth's total number of confirmed positives to 479. Centre County remains at one confirmed case, which was reported on Friday

Because of the pandemic, both the state and federal deadlines for filing income tax returns has been moved back 90 days to July 15.

Gov. Tom Wolf and top legislators are working on a proposal to delay Pennsylvania's primary election from April 28 to June 2, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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