FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, June 26, 2020
Chris Robinson, Communication Team
215-843-4256 and [email protected]
The COVID-19 Emergency Is Not Over
Garret Wassermann is vice-chair of the Green Party of Allegheny County and a Green Party candidate for PA State Representative in District 45. To volunteer for Garret Wassermann’s Campaign, please visit his website, https://votegarret.org/, or his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/VoteGarret/.
-- by Garret Wasserman.
It is pretty outrageous and reckless that PA state legislators voted on a concurrent resolution to end the COVID-19 emergency declaration put out by Governor Tom Wolf. While the Republicans led the effort, most Democrats in the Senate along with several Democrats in the House joined them to make this a bipartisan bill. My opponent, current PA Representative Anita A. Kulik was one of the Yes votes, as was my PA Senator Wayne Fontana.
According to the Pennsylvania Constitution, the governor has the authority to declare an emergency and exercise special authority and powers, which is what Wolf was using to regulate business and order a lock-down. The Constitution also states that the state legislature may at any time revoke the emergency by passing a concurrent resolution bill. This bill does not require the governor’s signature, since it is a resolution and not a typical bill. That is, it’s just a statement, and it doesn’t become law; so the governor has nothing to veto.
There are two huge problems with this resolution: its effect on public health, and its effect on workers and families.
First, public health.
COVID-19 is far from over, more people are infected and hospitalized every day. Over 110,000 people nationwide have already died in the span of a few months, and that was with emergency lock-down orders in effect (meaning it would have been much worse without lock-down). It is absolutely still an emergency and a crisis. In fact, states that opened up earlier than PA – and had less lock-down restrictions to begin with – are already seeing huge surges in infection and hospitalization rates. Texas for example saw a record number of hospitalizations this week. I’m very concerned that it may already be too late to effectively stop the spread in those states, meaning we can expect many more infections and deaths over the coming weeks. That will be PA’s future soon, if we don’t maintain action now. Those deaths will accelerate if hospitals become crowded and overwhelmed; this was actually one of the biggest reasons for the lock-down, to ensure hospitals could keep reasonable capacity and treat everyone who needed it.
So what does the concurrent resolution have to do with this? Well, for one thing, it sends the wrong message to the public that the crisis is “over.” Also, the emergency declaration allows greater regulations – and resources – to flow into hospitals and the Department of Health in order to address these issues. Those resources will dry up. And honestly, they already weren’t getting the resources they needed. Reports of shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks and gowns are common; state officials should have been purchasing PPE and spreading out long ago. Without an emergency declaration, that’s even less likely to happen now. Medical professionals will die, particularly if we see another surge or second wave, and they didn’t have to if officials were making the preparations necessary.
Healthcare professionals are in the middle of a war for our health, and the lack of real support from state and federal officials – along with post-traumatic-stress-like symptoms – is already making many plan to leave medicine for good once the crisis is passed.
Second, workers and families.
A lot of special state and federal programs exist to try to help families through this crisis, but many of them only apply during a state of emergency. What this means is that officials voting for the resolution may have caused local communities across PA to suddenly lose access to state and federal funding for COVID-19 relief programs. Many essential jobs are in grocery stores and other services critical to feeding and taking care of people. Teens are having to make the difficult decision of putting themselves and families at risk in order to make extra money to help a family that may be out of work. A housing crisis may be looming, as the Governor’s executive order protections that prevented evictions until at least mid-July may suddenly expire and result in a wave of eviction attempts.
So what should we do? As research indicates, we need to encourage universal face mask usage in public and be prepared for brief lock-down phases as necessary. If we do so, modeling shows we can “flatten the curve” and even prevent future waves. But ONLY if nearly 100% of us wear masks at all times in public. It’s crucial we all wear a mask.
In the meantime, until the COVID-19 crisis is finally past, workers and businesses need help. I’ve written previously about actions the county and state legislature could take – including rent/mortgage freeze, utility freeze, and single payer healthcare, plus emptying the jail – and am very frustrated that the legislature chose to work on ending the emergency declaration rather than passing legislation that would actually help people through the global economic crisis caused by COVID-19. A lot can be done now. Legislators must act, not delay and ignore.
The Green Party of PA (GPPA, https://www.gpofpa.org/) is an independent political party that stands in opposition to the two corporate parties. GPPA candidates promote public policy based on the Green Party’s four pillars: grassroots democracy, nonviolence, ecological wisdom, and social justice/equal opportunity. For further information about GPPA, please visit www.gpofpa.org or email [email protected]. Please follow GPPA on social media: Facebook and Twitter.
For More Information:
“Several U.S. states are reporting thousands of new coronavirus cases each day” by Christina Maxouris, Columbus Telegram, June 24, 2020, https://columbustelegram.com/news/national/several-us-states-are-reporting-thousands-of-new-coronavirus-cases-each-day/article_f1f4a881-f2a0-51cd-95e9-1197981506aa.html;
“Texas Reports Record-Breaking COVID-19 Hospitalizations As State Reopens” by Vanessa Romo, NPA WHYY TV, June 8, 2020, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/06/08/872660425/texas-reports-record-breaking-covid-19-hospitalizations-as-state-reopens;
“When This War Is Over, Many of Us Will Leave Medicine” by Dr. Michelle Harper, Elemental, April 24, 2020, https://elemental.medium.com/when-this-war-is-over-many-of-us-will-leave-medicine-86a274b5a627;
“Teens Are Working As Essential Workers While Going to High School” by Elizabeth King, TeenVogue, May 26, 2020, https://www.teenvogue.com/story/teens-essential-workers;
“A housing ‘apocalypse’ is coming as coronavirus protections across the country expire” by Alicia Adamczyk, CNBC Make It, June 10, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/10/how-to-prevent-the-coming-coronavirus-tsunami-of-evictions.html;
“Study: 100% face mask use could crush second, third COVID-19 wave” by Mike Moffitt, SFGate, June 12, 2020, https://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Study-100-face-mask-use-could-crush-second-15333170.php;
“COVOD-19 Pandemic Update” by Garret Wassermann, March 25, 2020, https://votegarret.org/2020/03/25/pandemic-update;
“Coronavirus Underscores Need for a Single Payer Healthcare System” by Garret Wassermann, March 6, 2020, https://votegarret.org/2020/03/06/coronavirus-needs-single-payer;
“Save Lives -- Empty the Jail” by Garret Wassermann, April 9, 2020, https://votegarret.org/2020/04/09/save-lives-empty-the-jail;
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