Schuylkill County Commissioners backed off their stance of moving to the Yellow phase of Pennsylvania’s coronavirus reopening plan on Friday.
During a virtual public meeting held Wednesday morning, the Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a motion made by Democrat Commissioner Gary Hess.
Hess’ motion, presumably worded extemporaneously (off-the-cuff), says Schuylkill County should wait until Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Sect. Rachel Levine give the go-ahead for Schuylkill County to move to the Yellow phase.
Schuylkill County Backs Down on Stance to Move to Yellow Phase of Coronavirus Reopening
While the three County Commissioners voted to approve Hess’ motion, Commissioners George Halcovage and Boots Hetherington each expressed at least some frustration.
“I’m willing to wait but not forever,” Hetherington said prior to the 3-0 vote.
Halcovage indicated he’ll revisit the idea of moving Schuylkill County to the Yellow phase again if Wolf and Levine do not hold up their end of an informal bargain made yesterday during a phone call with Schuylkill Commissioners on Tuesday.
That phone call was alluded to several times during Wednesday’s Commissioners meeting. Based on the discussion of it at the meeting, it seems Wolf and Levine promised local officials they’d hear their concerns and present evidence showing why they chose to keep Schuylkill County in the Red phase during last week’s update.
On Friday, May 8, Wolf added 13 counties in Pennsylvania to be moved to the Yellow phase starting this Friday. Schuylkill County was not on that list. And later in the day, the Schuylkill County coronavirus task force fired off a letter to Wolf asking he reconsider that decision.
On Saturday, Schuylkill officials upped the ante and joined other Pennsylvania counties in saying it was moving to Yellow on the 15th, with or without the Governor’s approval.
Then, on Monday, Wolf went on a tirade against Schuylkill and other counties who decided to “go rogue” with their own coronavirus reopening plans.
Halcovage says the phone call with Wolf and Levine is supposed to happen some time next week.
“We are expecting the word of the governor that he’s going to collaborate with us,” he said. “We are asked to respect the Governor. The Governor needs to respect us. We need the Governor to come back to us. We have not been getting information from leadership in Harrisburg.”
Hess said in comments prior to making the motion that his decision to join that letter sent to Wolf indicating our willingness to go to the Yellow phase alone, “May have been made in haste.”
“We should wait,” he said.
Lack of Communication Between Schuylkill County and State
Halcovage expressed frustration with the fact that Schuylkill County officials have been blacked out from communication with the state coronavirus officials. And he took umbrage with Wolf’s comments on Monday.
“We take coronavirus seriously,” he said. “We have not been given any specifics other than ‘We’re close (to the Yellow phase)’.”
He added in comments prior to the vote, “As public servants, it is our duty to do what’s best for our county.”
During a slightly prolonged Public Comment portion of the teleconference meeting call, about a dozen people spoke, mostly against the decision to go our own way on a coronavirus reopening plan.
Most people were clearly reading statements they’d practiced earlier in the day or the night before. Some expressed “outrage” at the decision to “go rogue” and even laughed at the idea of it.
We’re not sure where these folks were getting information from, but they all seemed to be on the same page, and based on their back-and-forth, it seemed many knew each other. Most of what was said was clearly regurgitated talking points they all learned from the news media and left-leaning politicians.
They screamed about “testing” and “contact tracing” not being available but no one explained why those things seemed to be important to them.
Former State Rep. Tim Seip (who represented the 125th District) also chimed in with the folks against the letter sent to Wolf on Saturday.
However, not all comments leaned left.
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