As part of an effort to help quell the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the commonwealth, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf took the extraordinary step of ordering “all non-life-sustaining businesses” to close by 8 p.m. Thursday.
Wolf’s announcement came on a day when the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus topped 200 for the first time in Pennsylvania, and one day after the state confirmed its first death from the disease. A total of 52 new cases were confirmed by the state Thursday, including four in Northampton County.
In a video in which he announced the death of the 55-year-old Northampton County resident Wednesday, Wolf hinted that more severe measures could be in store for private enterprise if businesses did not comply with a voluntary order he issued earlier this week.
In that order, Wolf asked all “non-essential” businesses to close, although there has been a considerable amount of confusion among the general public as well as business owners about which businesses are considered “essential” vs. “non-essential,” and why.
Thursday’s decree was accompanied by a list of “life-sustaining” vs. “non-life-sustaining businesses by name and industry, some of which are open to the public and some of which are not.
The order also specifically excluded bars and restaurants that are complying with the prohibition on sit-down dining that began Monday. Many local eateries have added curbside pickup or drive-thru options for customers in recent days because of that ban.
“Businesses that offer carry-out, delivery and drive-through food and beverage service may continue, so long as social distancing and other mitigation measures are employed to protect workers and patrons,” Wolf’s order said. “Enforcement actions will be taken against businesses that are out of compliance effective March 19, 2020, at 8 p.m.”
Businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies are not affected by the order because they are considered both essential and life-sustaining, although many continue to experience product shortages in the wake of panick-buying that began more than a week ago.
The order–which is in effect until further notice–also excludes “virtual or telework operations (e.g. work from home), so long as social distancing and other mitigation measures are followed in such operations.”
The governor’s website–on which a list of businesses was published–apparently crashed at one point due to overwhelming traffic following the announcement.
Both Wolf and Department of Health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine have repeatedly used the mantra “stay calm, stay home, stay safe” as a way of encouraging Pennsylvanians to socially distance themselves and help stop the virus’s spread.
As of Thursday, there were more than 13,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 spread across the U.S., with all 50 states reporting confirmed cases. Nationwide, more than 175 people in 24 states have died from the disease, which originated in China late last year.
Please note: Below are screenshots of the governor’s list, provided to our readers as a convenience. Please be aware that what you see may not be the list in its entirety. Use the link above to verify the name of the business for which you need information.