Gov Tom Wolf file

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a third statewide disaster declaration for COVID-19 on Wednesday, extending the emergency status and the administration's enhanced authority over the government's pandemic response into 2021.

(The Center Square) – Gov. Tom Wolf extended the statewide disaster declaration for COVID-19 on Wednesday an additional 90 days – the third time he’s taken such action since the first case emerged on March 6.

“With cases and hospitalizations increasing, we cannot afford to let down our guard,” Wolf said. “This renewal will allow the commonwealth to maintain its response and support efforts as we face increasing case numbers and decreasing hospital capacity.”

The emergency declaration affords the administration special authority to redirect state aid and resources to better combat the spread of the virus. Still, its likely to further deepen resentment among legislative Republicans long tired of the governor’s unilateral decisions on economic and social restrictions meant to curb COVID-19 transmission rates.

Test positivity for the last seven day period ending Nov. 19 reached 11.1 percent, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said on Monday, more than doubling the 5 percent rate that officials consider worrisome. As intensive care unit beds fill up, Levine said hospitals in strained regions must stop elective procedures once instructed to by the state. 

Modeling from Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington projects Pennsylvania could run out of ICU beds next month and that the death toll could exceed 32,000 by the last week of February.

A department order banned alcohol sales at all bars and restaurants between 5 p.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. Thursday, effectively shutting down the industry’s busiest night of the year. Levine also imposed new testing rules for people traveling into the state and encouraged residents to stay at home as much as possible.

The hope, Wolf said, is to prevent further deaths by keeping people at home without resorting to statewide lockdowns. 

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania's General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.