‘Nonessential’ businesses in Pennsylvania shutting down due to COVID-19

March 19, 2020

Land Line Staff

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By order of the governor, all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania will close their physical locations as of 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

“To protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians, we need to take more aggressive mitigation actions,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement. “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.”

Enforcement actions against businesses that do not close physical locations will begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 21. In extenuating circumstances, special exemptions will be granted to businesses that are supplying or servicing health care providers.

Wolf also required restaurants and bars 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. March 19. Food establishments can offer carry-out, delivery, and drive-through food and beverage service, including alcohol.

According to a release from the governor’s office, non-life-sustaining businesses had previously been encouraged to close to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Pursuant to the Emergency Management Services Code, the governor is granted extraordinary powers upon his declaration of a disaster emergency, such as COVID-19. Among these powers, the governor may control the ingress and egress into the disaster area, the movement of persons, 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.

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
  • 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,” the release states. “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.”

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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.

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