As you have undoubtedly heard, the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has made its way to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This influenza-like virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, and has since spread to more than 100 countries, including the United States.
In January 2020, the World Health Organization (the “WHO”) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared COVID-19 a “public health emergency of international concern,” and on March 11, 2020, the WHO categorized COVID-19 as a pandemic, the same classification given to the smallpox, bubonic plague and cholera.
As of this writing, there are thirty-three positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, and more than 200 Pennsylvanians are under investigation. On March 6, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf signed a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency (the “Proclamation”), transferring up to $25,000,000 in funds to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (the “PEMA”) and authorizing state agencies, such as the Department of Health, to take all acts necessary to respond to the emergency. For local governments, the Proclamation directs that the applicable emergency response and recovery plans of the counties, municipalities and other entities be activated as necessary and that actions taken to implement those plans be coordinated through the PEMA. The Proclamation followed the Department of Health’s activation of its Department Operations Center at the PEMA headquarters to conduct public health and medical coordination for COVID-19.
As of March 12, 2020, Governor Wolf has taken additional steps to stop the spread of the virus. In Montgomery County, schools, child care centers and adult day care centers will be closed for fourteen days, effective March 13, 2020. For all other Pennsylvania counties, Governor Wolf strongly encourages the suspension of large gatherings, events and conferences of 250 individuals or more. Additionally, individuals are discouraged from traveling to recreational activities like gyms, movie theaters and shopping malls and religious leaders are encouraged to exercise discretion in order to mitigate the spread of illness. Until further notice, Governor Wolf has also canceled all public events in the Capitol Complex and Governor’s Residence. The cancellation of events applies to all interior and exterior venues in the Capitol Complex and will affect public gatherings such as rallies, school or group tours, choir performances and receptions.
For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit the Department of Health’s website at https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx. The attorneys at McNees will continue to monitor COVID-19 and its impact on Pennsylvania’s municipalities.