GOVERNORS Not relenting on power grip
The OBSERVER’s View
Neither Gov. Tom Wolf nor Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York state want to give up their emergency powers.
Similar executive actions last week provide proof why they should do just that.
Both governors took steps to limit bars and restaurants as coronavirus cases climbed in some parts of Pennsylvania and New York. Those increases haven’t come with as significant an increase in hospitalizations throughout either state, which makes us wonder why reopening was handled on a county-by-county or region-by-region basis but additional limitations are being handled statewide.
Wolf reduced all indoor dining to 25% capacity, made bars open only for sit-down meals at tables while closing the bar, mandated telework if possible and limited gatherings to fewer than 25 people indoors and 250 people outdoors. The governor justified the move by saying the biggest COVID spikes were in the state’s Pittsburgh area from younger people and others congregating in bars and restaurants. Rather than introduce limits in the affected area, Wolf said the mandates were targeted on the industries.
Cuomo ordered that bars and restaurants are subject to new requirements to serve alcohol to people ordering and eating food while bar top service is only for seated people who are socially distanced or separated by physical barriers. Three violations could result in the loss of a business’ liquor license or closure.
Why take these actions in areas where cases are increasing slowly, if at all?
That’s akin to smacking a fly with a sledgehammer. A sector that was already struggling — Forte in Jamestown is a great example — just took another roundhouse punch from their respective governors with little regard for the restaurant owners’ nor for their employees.
We’re also not sure such a step was really necessary. Contact tracing should allow local health officials to make connections between problem bars or restaurants and then act accordingly.
If there is one lesson we had hoped the governors would have learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that one-size-fits-all policies don’t work in states as diverse as New York and Pennsylvania. Trying to govern densely populated urban areas the same was as rural areas with a country mile between neighbors is truly a one-size-fits-none approach.
Wolf and Cuomo are smart enough to have learned that lesson by now. They choose not to.