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The association representing Pennsylvania’s largest manufacturers is asking Gov. Tom Wolf to revise his order directing all but “life-sustaining” businesses to shut down, saying it is blocking essential supply chains from providing products to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
David N. Taylor, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, said in an interview Friday that the governor’s office did not contact him or other manufacturing trade groups before issuing the order, which he called “rash,” “overly broad,” and “imprecise.”
Taylor said the order, which was issued just before close of business Thursday, shuts down timber operations, which he said feeds the supply chain for manufacturing paper products. It also leaves steelworkers without coal to use for making essential products.
“We need the governor to come to his senses," Taylor said. “We need him to reconsider his executive order so we can refashion something that is workable.”
The governor’s office could not immediately be reached for comment. But in a statement Thursday afternoon, Wolf said, “To protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians, we need to take more aggressive mitigation actions.”
“This virus is an invisible danger that could be present everywhere," he said. “We need to act with the strength we use against any other severe threat. And, we need to act now before the illness spreads more widely.”
As the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise Thursday, Wolf issued a new and more expansive directive, requiring all but the most essential businesses to close. His administration said “life-sustaining” businesses that could remain open include grocery stores, gas stations, farms, and transit systems.
Businesses ordered to shut down their physical operations include car dealers, lawn and garden stores, specialty food stores, and furniture stores. His order, which took effect immediately and will remain in place indefinitely, also applied to offices providing legal, accounting, architectural, and tax services. It also shut down swaths of the manufacturing sector.
The governor also said that unlike shutdown orders he has issued since the virus began spreading in the state, this one would be enforced by the State Police, the state departments of health and agriculture, and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
As of Thursday, Pennsylvania had 52 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 185. Those numbers are updated daily. On Wednesday, health officials announced the state’s first death from the virus, a 55-year-old man from Northampton County.
This story will be updated.
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