An Open Letter to Governor Wolf


Responding to a statewide uprising that has led many counties to refuse to continue to abide by his orders, Pennsylvania Governor Wolf had this to say Monday.

“These folks are choosing to desert in the face of the enemy. In the middle of a war that we Pennsylvanians are winning, and that we must win. They need to understand the consequences of their cowardly act.”

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, 11 May 2020

Wolf went on to say that counties that reopen without state approval could be denied their share of discretionary funding from the federal stimulus. Businesses in these areas that resume operations also risk losing certifications required to operate from the Liquor Control Board and the Department of Health.

“The funding we have put aside to help with fighting this crisis will go to the folks who are doing their part, and that includes our CARES act funding, which will be used to support counties that are following the orders to prevent the spread and the medical communities that are treating patients.”

Here is my response.

Pennsylvania is filled with strong, law-abiding, hardworking men and women who have built this country from the ground up, who have fought its wars and who continue to love and defend this great nation to this day. For you with your privileged upbringing and Ivy League education to refer to those proud Americans as “cowards” is both disgusting and indefensible. You have not earned that right, sir.

That you chose to add to this insult a threat to withhold federal funding, provided to fight this pandemic, from communities that dare to oppose your “imperial” edicts is criminal. That you, a sitting Governor of this Commonwealth, believe you would be justified in allowing your political opponents to die rather than assist them is quite frankly incomprehensible. I cannot think of another example of an American politician even considering action of this type.

Here is the truth about this pandemic. A few months ago, as we began to face the outbreak head-on we were effectively flying blind. We had no data. We had only theoretical models.

Based on those models, with President Trump leading the way, we imposed significant restrictions on business activity and personal freedoms. It was prudent. We were facing an unknown enemy. With few exceptions Americans everywhere supported those restrictions.

It is now mid-May. We have a lot of data. We know a lot more about this disease and how dangerous it is.

We know that many of the people who are infected show no symptoms. We know many others have mild symptoms, recover on their own, and are never identified. Studies now suggest the actual number of people infected may be more than sixteen times what the official figures are.

And, that the risk of death is much, much less than originally feared. In fact, increasingly, it appears that the death rate from the virus is less than 1%, on a par with that of the seasonal flu.

Nationally, 80% of deaths from COVID-19 are among individuals above 65 years of age. Nursing homes are particularly hard hit. As of last Friday, 68% of the deaths from the virus in Pennsylvania had occurred in these facilities. Yet, despite these numbers, your administration continues to resist broader testing at nursing homes and apparently never implemented a plan drafted two months ago to focus on nursing homes and the threat this disease posed to the elderly.

Your continued obsession with a statewide economic shutdown and “across the board” restrictions on a broad range of constitutional rights is unjustified and unwarranted. There is neither logic nor reason in the hodgepodge of restrictions you have put in place. You are destroying the economy of this state and bankrupting its citizens in response to a threat, which for the vast majority of people, is no greater than they face every flu season.

What you need to do is lift your draconian measures statewide and put Pennsylvania back to work. What you need to do is stop thinking of yourself as a despot and remember you serve the people of this Commonwealth. We are not beholden to you. You work for us.

You want something to do? Take the time and resources you are currently devoting to making sure no more than a handful of people gather in a local bar or in a backyard for a barbecue and put them to use focusing on the threat elderly residents of our nursing homes face.
Create a task force. Dedicate resources. Put your hands around the problem. Save lives.

And, then apologize, to every man and woman in this state whom you called a coward. To everyone from whom you threatened to withhold assistance in order to satisfy your ego. You are the Governor of a great state, and it deserves much, much better.