(WTAJ) — Despite 13 more counties moving into the yellow phase on Friday, many business must remain closed under the governor’s order.
Since March 23rd, the Pennsylvania State Police has issued 329 warnings and only one citation to businesses in the commonwealth who are not supposed to be open. In our region, 50 warnings and no citations.
State Police can issue warnings and citations where they have main jurisdiction, but a lot of the enforcement comes from municipal authorities.
“We’ve heard the question, ‘Are we going to go in and force the governor’s order if a municipal police department for example does,’ and we are not. That’s not the way we operate in what I’m going to refer to as normal times,” Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the Pennsylvania State Police Lieutenant Colonel Scott Price said.
Price explained they will continue to follow the governor’s order, even if county leaders decide to ignore it and let businesses reopen.
“We don’t believe, as the law is written, that the governor’s order can be overwritten by county authority,” he said.
Multiple county leaders said they will not prosecute any business owner for violating the governor’s orders, including Bedford County District Attorney Lesley Childers-Potts.
“She’ll evaluate things basically on a case by case basis, but generally she’s not going to make criminals out of business owners,” County Commissioner Josh Lang said.
Lang added it’s a heartbreaking decision for shop owners, many who may not financially recover after the extended shutdown.
“It shouldn’t be one of those things where you have two choices, either defy the governor’s order or go bankrupt. That’s just not a feasible option,” he said.
Bedford County Commissioners are lobbying the federal government for more funding for local small businesses, as well as the state government to allow all businesses in the county to reopen.