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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s Business Lockdown Draws Questions, Complaints

A person views flowers from canceled events donated by Pennock Floral and DFW Event Design adorning Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, Thursday, March 19, 2020. Pennsylvania reported another big jump in confirmed coronavirus Thursday. The state Department of Health reported that cases topped 180, up 40%. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Business groups greeted a broad shutdown order from Pennsylvania’s governor with questions, objections and outrage on Friday, warning of its implications and seeking clarity about its details.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf directed all “non-life-sustaining” businesses to close their physical locations late Thursday and said state government would begin to enforce the edict starting early Saturday.

Among the toughest actions by a U.S. governor to combat the spread of COVID-19, Wolf’s order drew loud complaints.

“Gov. Wolf’s order from earlier this evening was not discussed beforehand with any of the stakeholders who could have explained the flaws in his plan, which could have been corrected prior to alarming the public,” Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association head David Taylor said late Thursday.

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry said Friday it was pressing for changes to the order.

“Many of the industries listed as ‘non-life-sustaining businesses’ in the governor’s order are in fact part of supply chain for other businesses listed as being a ‘life-sustaining’ business,” chamber president Gene Barr said.

Wolf’s order said more than 150 types of businesses had to close their physical locations. He said the order would be enforced by state troopers, local officials, the state Health and Agriculture departments and the Liquor Control Board.

A state police spokesman said early Friday that specifics about enforcement were expected to be made public later in the day.

Businesses that do not comply can be cited, fined, have their licenses suspended and forfeit disaster relief, the administration has said. Criminal charges are also possible, the governor’s office said.

Among those allowed to stay open are gas stations, grocery stores, beer distributors, drugstores and building materials stores. Restaurants and bars can continue to offer carry-out, delivery and drive-thru food and drink service, but not dine-in service.

Businesses under shutdown orders range from coal mines to building contractors to many types of manufacturers, along with professional offices, such as law firms and accounting offices.

Retailers ordered to close include car dealers, clothing stores, furniture stores, florists, office supply stores and lawn and garden stores.

Wolf’s directive also prohibits elective health procedures as officials work to help hospitals create more capacity in anticipation of a surge in coronavirus patients.

Pennsylvania has reported one death and more than 180 people sickened from the coronavirus so far. Schools have been shut down through March, at least, statewide student assessment tests have been canceled for the year and unemployment claims have skyrocketed.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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