Pennsylvania State Police will have a new and unusual job responsibility starting Monday at 8 a.m., when troopers will begin to enforce an executive order issued by Gov. Tom Wolf in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The order mandates that businesses deemed “non-life-sustaining” close their doors until further notice in order to help slow the spread of the disease, which as of Sunday afternoon had claimed at least three lives throughout the Commonwealth.
“The priority of the Pennsylvania State Police is protecting lives and maintaining order in the commonwealth,” said state police commissioner Col. Robert Evanchick in a news release Sunday. “In light of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, troopers and liquor control enforcement officers are prepared to ensure compliance with Gov. Wolf’s order.”
“Private businesses, organizations and other noncompliant entities face possible criminal penalties under the Administrative Code of 1929, 71 P.S. § 1409 and/or the Pennsylvania Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, 35 P.S. § 521.20(a),” Evanchick noted. “Both violations are summary offenses punishable by fines and even jail time. Violators may also be subject to additional administrative penalties under certain circumstances.”
To review the updated list of business classifications, click here.
As Saucon Source reported earlier in the weekend, some businesses have requested waivers in order to keep their doors open, while others have done so because they say they fulfill a life-sustaining need during the pandemic.
Noteworthy amont the life-sustaining businesses that may continue to operate under Wolf’s executive order include grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, farms, laundromats, accountants and restaurants, although eateries are only permitted to sell food for takeout, curbside pickup and delivery until further notice.
Evanchick said state police will begin their approach to enforcing the order by providing information.
“We believe most Pennsylvanians want to act responsibly and do their part to help slow the spread of this deadly virus,” he said. “Troopers and liquor control officers will make every effort to achieve voluntary compliance by educating business owners and using discretion when appropriate.”
But he added, “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,” Evanchick said.
In addition to state police and liquor control enforcement officers, agents from the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture will be enforcing the order statewide, with local officials enforcing closure orders within their jurisdictions, the news release indicated.
“The Wolf administration has provided all local law enforcement with enforcement guidance that mirrors PSP’s,” it said.
To report a noncompliant business, individuals should contact their local law enforcement agency’s non-emergency number or the nearest PSP station.
As of Sunday afternoon, Pennsylvania had nearly 500 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 19 in Lehigh County and 21 in Northampton County, where one person has died from the disease. In terms of the number of confirmed cases, southeastern Pennsylvania–including the Lehigh Valley–is the state’s hardest-hit region.
Neighboring states like New Jersey and New York have thousands of confirmed cases, according to the latest statistics on the pandemic, which has caused considerable social and economic disruption in the United States over the past several weeks.