October 5, 2020
The House Labor and Industry and Health Committees hosted an informational meeting last week to examine the impact of the Wolf Administration’s ongoing COVID-19 mitigation efforts on the state’s business community.
Notable testifiers included the president of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, John Longstreet, who discussed the acute negative economic impact that the dining and entertainment industries have experienced since the pandemic arrived in Pennsylvania in March. He said that data from a CDC study linking the restaurant industry to COVID is full of flaws and also stressed the need for liability reforms to protect dining establishments that are following all health and safety guidelines from undue litigation. According to a story from Pennsylvania Legislative Services, Longstreet said that there was “no scientific basis” for the administration’s call to reduce indoor restaurant capacity to 25 percent.
“The only significance of the 25 percent number is that it will ensure that thousands of restaurants close, and hundreds of thousands of restaurant employees will once again be unemployed.” Longstreet also warned that the latest findings from the National Restaurant Association show that 100,000 restaurants nationwide have closed and that “63 percent of Pennsylvania restaurant operators reported that it is unlikely their restaurants will still be in business six months from now if current business conditions continue.”
Rebecca Oyler from the National Federation of Independent Business detailed the small business community’s difficulties in understanding constantly evolving administration mandates and also with having to self-enforce the DOH’s health safety order on mask wearing (an issue that the PA Chamber also hears from our membership about, and which we are addressing through a #WhyIWearIt mask campaign).
Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine also testified and answered questions from committee members. She defended the administration’s actions as an attempt to protect Pennsylvanians – saying that public health, and not the economy, is her focus while dealing with the pandemic.
“Removing restrictions during this global pandemic needs to be done in a very careful and very iterative manner … The best way to open businesses is to control the virus, you cannot reopen the economy if the virus is not under control,” she said. She also answered questions specific to the process of contact tracing; and debated with some committee Republicans about the consistency and clarity of the orders, saying she believes them to be logical and saved lives. When asked about the color-coded re-opening phase that was implemented in the spring, Sec. Levine said that mitigation efforts have now been targeted to “the businesses who were most implicated in the COVID-19 increases,” and that their efforts have been successful.
Founded in 1916, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, with its membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.