On Monday, May 11th citizens – including many small business owners – of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania assembled outside of the county courthouse in Montrose to protest the continued shutdown of their county. The people gathered to make their voices heard to their elected county officials and to remind them for whom they work.
Governor Tom Wolf announced on May 1 that 24 counties in Pennsylvania would be able to move from the red phase to the yellow thus beginning the reopening process. These counties reopened on May 8. Governor Wolf announced on May 8 that 13 more counties would be reopening on May 15.
Susquehanna County has a population of roughly 41,000 people and borders Bradford, Wyoming, Lackawanna, and Wayne counties. To date, Susquehanna has had a total of 87 cases of coronavirus and 11 deaths. Most of the COVID-19 deaths have been in nursing homes.
The total number of cases and number of deaths is low in comparison to some of the other counties that have reopened which have had more cases and more deaths. Yet, Susquehanna county has not been allowed to reopen.
One of the organizers for the protest, veteran Al Bisner, explained: “Susquehanna County is not afraid of the big bad Wolf.”
Jeff and Doreen Durante, the owners of the SpeakEasy Saloon & Resort in Union Dale, Pa explained: “I know this shutdown is to protect the children and elderly and we do need to shut down certain things.” They added, “This is hurting individuals and small businesses who still have heating bills to pay.”
Doreen Durante explained, “We have gone from being a restaurant that, on a slow night would feed 200 people, to a quarter of what we would normally do.” Like many restaurant owners, the Durante’s now lean heavily on takeout and delivery to keep some cash coming in.
While the Durante’s explained how the shutdown has affected their business, they also added that they are “Blessed and grateful for all of their customers who continue to support them with takeout and delivery.”
State Representative Jonathan Fritz and county commissioners Alan Hall and Judy Herschel were present to answer questions from protesters.
When asked by one protester, “I don’t want to hear politics. Is this county going yellow, or is it going to stay red?” Rep. Fritz quickly answered, “I advocate going yellow….” continuing to add “How about this? I advocate going to green.”
However, when asked if the county would be moving to green, Fritz explained that the decision “Was not his to make.” He encouraged protesters to continue rattling the cage to get the county reopened.
Rep. Fritz expressed sympathy and understanding for the people who are lamenting job losses and struggling to make ends meet. Commissioner Hall focused on pointing out how much power Governor Wolf holds, and Commissioner Herschel spoke about her fear of COVID-19 spreading.
Kellie Faigle who attended the protest expressed her support for the local officials. She explained “They’re all on our side. I know they’re on our side,” continuing to add “We need to reopen, but I’m here to support them.”
Jeff Durante also expressed support for the county commissioners adding that “Our commissioners are trying to fight to get the county opened.”
The people who showed up are Americans. They are our friends. Our family members. Our next-door neighbors. Our coworkers.
They are frustrated. They are worried. They are sick and tired of the government trampling all over their freedoms.
They are not children. They don’t want to be told what to do. They complied with the Governor’s orders initially, because they are good citizens and patriots.
That time has passed. They are done.