Just before Gov. Tom Wolf announced the easing of restrictions on 24 counties in the northwest and northcentral parts of Pennsylvania, a crowd gathered at the county courthouse in Hollidaysburg for a “ReOpen PA Rally."
Attorney Marc Scaringi headlined the event, held by the Blair County Tea Party Friday.
Scaringi filed a suit against Wolf’s stay-at-home order being applied to many businesses, which have not been allowed to operate. The order is part of the state’s efforts to slow COVID-19.
“I join you in your demand that Governor Tom Wolf rescind his draconian and unconstitutional business closure and stay-at-home orders and that he reopen Pennsylvania now," Scaringi said.
Wolf did ease the orders for some counties, including Centre, Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Lycoming, McKean and Warren. But Blair County was not moved from the “red” to “yellow” category.
Wolf said those counties have low per-capita case counts and contact tracing and testing capabilities. He said they have “appropriate population density to contain community spread.”
In counties that have been moved to "yellow," some businesses will be able to reopen while following safety guidelines, but gyms, casinos and theaters won't. Working from home is still encouraged, when possible.
Wolf did not rule out reinstating stay-at-home orders in counties where restrictions have been eased.
“If people aren't safe, if the number of cases goes back up into critical territory, then we're going to have to say, ‘You got to go back to the red category and try it again,’” Wolf said.
According to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 80% of Americans support shelter-in-place orders.
But, those at the rally want to see the orders lifted where they live.
Jessica Bush has her own business as a photographer in Bedford County. She’s lost jobs photographing weddings and other events.
“Trying to force me to go work at WalMart or somewhere with hundreds of people when I can safely work more safe out my house, you know, I don’t understand,” Bush said.
Theresa Murray, of Altoona, thinks Wolf has overreached.
“Instead of using some kind of common sense and intelligence to look at county-by-county, he just shut down the whole state," she said.
Murray pointed out that Blair County has seen a low number of COVID-19 cases. There have been 23 confirmed cases in the county and no deaths.
“I think it’s just crazy, the statistics are ridiculous," said Murray, who was wearing a mask. "We just came out in support of everybody else here in Blair County, all the small businesses that are going under. Our friends, our family, our relatives, our neighbors.”
Many of those at the rally were not wearing masks. Employees and customers are required to wear them at businesses that have been allowed to stay open, such as grocery stores. And, it's recommended people wear them when coming within six feet of someone else.
State Rep. Lou Schmitt, R-Blair County, issued a statement saying he was "bitterly disappointed" in Wolf's plan.
"The governor has done a distinct disservice to the hard-working taxpayers and business owners of Blair County by virtue of implementing a reopening plan that is both unfair and inconsistent," Schmitt said.