Good evening, I’m State Senator Ryan Aument.
It’s been said dozens of times throughout this ordeal: We are in unchartered territory; this situation is unprecedented. Unfortunately, these are more than platitudes –this is the harsh reality of our situation in Pennsylvania and indeed the United States right now. To put it bluntly, we were unprepared for a disease of this magnitude and rapidity.The lack of masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment coupled with the lack of ventilators and hospital beds that will be necessary to treat the waves of infected patients is a real problem. In fact, it is the lack of this equipment that has caused Governor Wolf to impose the strict mitigation measures such as stay-at-home orders and statewide business closures.
In the Governor’s words, we are buying time so that our healthcare system has time to stockpile supplies and build the capacity needed to treat COVID-19 victims.
As you all know, the governor has ordered non-essential businesses to close and has even issued stay-at-home orders for certain counties in an effort to stop the spread of this virus. Lancaster County was added to the list of stay-at-home counties today. The order takes effect at 8:00 PM tonight –Friday, March 27, 2020 –and will continue until April 6, 2020.
If you were already practicing proper social distancing, this order will likely not change your daily routine. County residents are still permitted to leave the house for a limited number of activities, such as getting groceries, going to medical appointments, and other tasks essential to maintain health and safety. I have provided a link to the Governor’s list of approved activities in my post of this video.
These orders are certainly interrupting all of our lives, but it is in an effort to preserve life that the Governor has taken such extreme measures.
While these dramatic actions may in fact be necessary in the near-term, and we should all take them seriously so that we can prevent overwhelming our healthcare industry and the further loss of life–we need a path forward. Just as necessary as these severe social distancing and mitigation orders is a plan back to normalcy–an exit strategy.
More specifically, Pennsylvanians need clear benchmarks or goals that, once attained, signal that the current restrictions will be eased. These benchmarks should not be tied to an arbitrary date, as this would require speculation and guesswork on behalf of public officials that would not only be difficult but it would likely give unrealistic expectations to Pennsylvanians if that deadline can’t be met. Instead, these benchmarks should be tied to specific, measurable accomplishments rather than a date on the calendar.
These goals must also be transparent –as government officials, we should update Pennsylvanians regularly regarding the status of meeting these goals.
While the Governor’s administration has done a great job of consistently updating the public with new information regarding COVID-19, I think we as government officials need to take a step back to look at the larger picture, rather than continuing to focus solely on day to day survival.We need –and Pennsylvanians deserve –a clear exit strategy.
Make no mistake, the administration is actively working on develop ing a plan to ramp up testing and treatment capacity in Pennsylvania, and I applaud those efforts and urge the administration to aggressively pursue them, perhaps even more so than they already are; however, clearly communicating the link between these efforts and an exit strategy is lacking.
We need to work in a bipartisan and collaborative way with our federal and local counterparts to develop and execute a plan that will allow us to roll back restrictions based on meeting predetermined, transparent benchmarks.This will signal to families, businesses, and schools that our current situation is not indefinite –there is an end, and the end will come when we accomplish these clearly defined goals.
We owe it to Pennsylvanians to offer a vision for how this pandemic ends that both protects the health of our residents and actively gets folks back to work.As such, I am calling on Governor Wolf to develop such a plan and to quickly and clearly communicate it to Pennsylvanians.Additionally, to operate under total transparency, he should release the list of businesses that were denied, approved, and pending approval for waivers to continue operating throughout the pandemic –and if he will not release this list, he should provide a clear explanation why.
The General Assembly convened remotely via teleconferencing earlier this week to do its part in removing barriers and providing clarity during this uncertain time –we passed legislation that delayed Pennsylvania’s primary election, provided critical funding for medical supplies, relaxed certain school mandates, and bolstered our Unemployment Compensation system for Pennsylvania workers impacted by COVID-19. While these bills are certainly a step in the right direction, we must do more. We must be proactive rather than reactive.
Pennsylvania needs hope right now –and not false hope that relies on arbitrary calendar dates –but real hope that will band us together in a united effort to work towards a clear exit strategy from this unprecedented pandemic.
As we all know by now, this situation is rapidly changing on a daily and even hourly basis as Pennsylvania works to combat the COVID-19 virus. For timely updates and important information about the corona virus efforts in PA, please sign up for my e-newsletter at senatoraument.com.
Finally, please continue to be patient and take care of one another as we all confront this challenge together. Thank you and God bless you.