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Wolf: Transition going well; still urges caution

At a meeting this week of a local government board, two attendees wore masks the entire time, several others put them on only after someone asked what the board’s policy on masks should be and one may not have worn a mask at all.

The situation seems indicative of widespread uncertainty in Pennsylvania about how to behave during the current transition from coronavirus lockdown to something more closely approximating normal.

The behavior of Pennsylvania residents so far has helped keep the state from becoming one of 24 with rising new-case counts, but complacency is dangerous, Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Wednesday at a press conference.

It’s important not to have a “false sense that the virus is gone,” Levine said. “We need to remain alert and vigilant.”

Mask wearing is mandatory for businesses that deal with the public — both for employees and customers, even in the green phase of reopening, which makes sense, because studies show they work, said Wolf, touting his administration’s reliance on science to “balance economic interests with public health.”

While the administration so far has exhibited a light touch on enforcement of such mandates, it revealed a more heavy-handed approach Wednesday with its petition for an injunction to shut down a car show that began Wednesday in Carlisle, in violation of the 250-person limit for green-phase events.

“We’re very concerned about mass gatherings,” Levine said, saying that as many as 100,000 people could be heading to Carlisle. “It could lead to significant outbreaks,” she said.

But what about Republican accusations of inconsistency, given that the governor himself recently took part in a mass protest against police brutality, a reporter asked.

“I thought it was important for me to take that risk,” Wolf said.

And what about a Republican proposal for a constitutional amendment that would limit gubernatorial emergency declarations to 30 days, a reporter asked.

That could “constrain the ability of a democracy to survive,” by limiting a governor’s power to intervene in an emergency, Wolf said.

The virus doesn’t favor one party or political orientation, Wolf said, alluding to the politicization that has influenced attitudes about COVID-19 infections and mask-wearing.

The vigilance being urged on residents is being practiced by the administration, according to Levine, explaining why Erie County, alone among those in the northwest, is still in the yellow phase, due to case counts that have recently risen.

But the same tools that the state is using to deal with situations like Erie’s should be able to keep all the counties from “going backward” to more restrictive phases if there’s a resurgence in the fall, according to Levine and Wolf.

When the pandemic began, there was a lack of personal protective equipment, ventilators and potentially of hospital beds, and little testing and tracing capabilities, Wolf said.

“We’re in a different place now,” he said. “I’m not sure the green, yellow, red things (would) make any sense (in the fall).”

Those who have recovered from COVID-19 — about

75 percent of the 80,000 people in Pennsylvania who have been infected — should consider donating their antibody-containing plasma, which could be used to help others recover, Levine said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

By the numbers:

New/total county COVID-19 cases: Blair 0/55 (1 death); Bedford 6/59 (2 deaths); Cambria 0/61 (3 deaths); Centre 5/172 (6 deaths); Clearfield 0/57; Huntingdon 0/239, 4 deaths (includes SCI-Huntingdon, where there were 5 inmate deaths, according to the DoC)

Area new/total cases: 11/643

New/total cases statewide: 335 (down 7 percent)/79,818 (75 percent recovered), 629 positive serology tests

New/total deaths statewide: 43/6,319

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