On March 20, Pennsylvania had 20 diagnosed cases of covid-19. The state was at the very beginning of measures that Gov. Tom Wolf implemented to address the spread of the disease.
Ten days later, Wolf was upping the response, issuing stay-at-home orders for 26 counties because the numbers were rising. On April 1, the day’s total was 808 new cases.
The numbers have ebbed and flowed in the ensuing seven months. So have the restrictions and responses. At times, the reasons have seemed at odds with the data. At other times, the public perception has been just as hard to reconcile, with people bristling against mask orders or closings even when the coronavirus pandemic was spreading more than it had at the height of the lockdowns.
On Monday, thousands of new cases were reported in Pennsylvania. The state has more than 269,000 positive cases and has lost 9,325 lives.
Those are big numbers. The climb seems more significant than it did in the spring. So why isn’t the response the same?
Are we advocating for shutdowns? No. We are questioning a lack of consistency — as we have repeatedly over the past eight months. We are requesting adequate explanation and understandable data, which we also have pushed to receive.
Maybe it is because the disease, which was a complete unknown in March, is better grasped now. Maybe it is because everyone is trying to walk the tightrope of what is good enough without tipping one way into worsening the epidemic or the other, into crippling economic or social fallout.
That is understandable. Those are important factors that could affect every Pennsylvanian, every business, every community. It is not just reasonable to consider the financial impact on restaurants and retail and household income; it would be neglectful to not make it part of the equation.
What doesn’t need to be part of it is politics. Regardless of party, it seems that has been inextricably bound to the disease and the response.
If Wolf believed the numbers in March and April demanded shuttered schools, why are districts making the calls now when the numbers are higher? On Monday, a Wolf statement said restrictions will stand as they are for things such as building occupancy and restaurants, but punted back to counties to make their own tighter calls. Philadelphiadid just that Monday afternoon, with a ban on indoor dining and gatherings, as well as closing gyms, museums, libraries and more.
Was the governor wrong then or is he wrong now? Or is it less about being wrong and more about bending to what has been an often vocal anticlosure sentiment?
Maybe these would be easier questions to answer if the state’s information was consistent and easy to understand. It’s not and it isn’t, even though it could be. Other states’ data is more comprehensible.
If Pennsylvania decisions are going to be accepted as reasoned and reasonable, the information has to back that up.
— The Tribune-Review (TNS)