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Gov. Wolf orders that all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania close physical locations

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Gov. Tom Wolf this afternoon ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations as of 8 p.m. today, March 19, to slow the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus.

Enforcement actions against businesses that do not close physical locations will begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 21.

Click here: List of life critical businesses

In extenuating circumstances, special exemptions will be granted to businesses that are supplying or servicing health care providers.

“To protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians, we need to take more aggressive mitigation actions,” Wolf said. “This virus is an invisible danger that could be present everywhere. 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.”  

The governor had previously encouraged nonlife-sustaining businesses to close to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants and bars were already required to stop all dine-in services. Enforcement for establishments with a liquor license began at 8 p.m. March 18, and enforcement for all other food establishments will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Food establishments can offer carry-out, delivery, and drive-through food and beverage service, including alcohol.

Pursuant to the Emergency Management Services Code, the governor is granted extraordinary powers upon his declaration of a disaster emergency, such as COVID-19, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

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VIDEO: Listen to Gov. Tom Wolf's announcement

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Among these powers, the governor may control the ingress and egress into the disaster area, the movement of people, and the occupancy of premises within the disaster area, which has been established to be the entire commonwealth for the COVID-19 disaster emergency.

The secretary of health separately is authorized under the law to employ measures necessary for the prevention and suppression of disease. Separately, and taken together, the administration is exercising these powers to temporarily close all non-life-sustaining businesses and dine-in facilities at all restaurants and bars across the state, according to the release. 

People must be removed from these premises to cope with the COVID-19 disaster emergency, the release stated.

Failure to comply with these requirements will result in enforcement action that could include citations, fines or license suspensions. 

The governor has directed the following state agencies and local officials to enforce the closure orders to the full extent of the law: Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania State Police and local officials, using their resources to enforce closure orders within their jurisdictions

“Private businesses, local organizations and other noncompliant entities that fail or refuse to comply with the governor’s orders that protect the lives and health of Pennsylvanians will forfeit their ability to receive any applicable disaster relief and/or may be subject to other appropriate administrative action,” said the release from the governor.

Such action may include termination of state loan or grant funding, including Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project grant funding and/or suspension or revocation of licensure for violation of the law.

Finally, in addition to any other criminal charges that might be applicable, the Department of Health is authorized to prosecute noncompliant entities for the failure to comply with health laws, including quarantine, isolation or other disease control measures. Violators are subject to fines or imprisonment, the release said.

The Department of Community and Economic Development offers working capital loans that could be of assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19, according to the governor’s office. Resources and information will be posted to http://dced.pa.gov/resources as they become available.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, in addition to local funding partners, may also be a source of assistance for affected businesses. The Wolf administration today announced the availability of low-interest loans for small businesses and eligible nonprofits in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Businesses seeking guidance from DCED can also contact its customer service resource account at ra-dcedcs@pa.gov or by calling 877-PA-HEALTH and selecting option 1.