Allegheny County

Push to reopen Pennsylvania’s economy gaining momentum as bill heads to Senate

PITTSBURGH — The push to get more people back to work and more businesses reopened in Pennsylvania is gaining traction.

In a video interview with Channel 11 News, Sen. Pat Toomey said he wants to see the state's economy open again sooner rather than later, stating he is having preliminary conversations with state leaders on how that could happen.

“Now is the time to begin the discussion on how we slowly, gradually reopen our economy, because we are doing enormous damage every week that goes by where people are not allowed to work,” Toomey said.

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Toomey said he thinks parts of the economy could reopen soon, with businesses enforcing social distancing rules amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s a big difference between a restaurant in Center City Philadelphia and a factory where workers can keep a 6-foot distance,” Toomey said. “I don’t think we can afford to wait and keep the economy closed until we have a massive scale of antibody testing capability.”

Under Senate Bill 613, some local businesses would be allowed to reopen despite the ongoing pandemic, but they would have to follow strict guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and essentially operate contact-free.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the bill Tuesday night, mostly along party lines. It is expected to be taken up by the Senate on Wednesday.

Allegheny/Fayette Central Labor Council President Darrin Kelly weighed in on the bill, releasing the following statement:

“No one wants to go back to work more than the men and women of organized labor. We also know that reopening our economy has to be done in a smart and responsible way, and has to be informed by science, data, and the advice of public health experts. Senate Bill 613 is not smart, it’s not responsible, and it’s not informed by science -- it is absolute lunacy.”

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine has said it’s too soon.

“I understand the legislature's concern about the economy and the desire to stimulate the economy, but now is not the time," Levine said.

Gov. Wolf will consider the bill if passed by the Senate, according to his office. However, he could choose to veto it.