Lancaster County's Republican leadership isn't backing down from its plan to move the county to the “yellow” phase on Friday.
Commissioners Josh Parson and Ray D'Agostino said their positions have not changed since they and 11 other local elected Republicans sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf Sunday informing him of their decision.
“No, my position has not changed,” Parsons said in an email Tuesday. “But I have also always said we would rather work collaboratively with the Governor if he ever has any interest in doing so — which so far he has not.”
The statement came at the same time Tuesday that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, testified to the U.S. Senate that there could be “serious” consequences — including death and an exacerbated economic crisis — if local officials in the U.S. lift stay-at-home orders too quickly.
Also on Tuesday, 22 local elected Democrats issued a response to the Republicans' Sunday letter, calling it a “reckless mistake that will have grave consequences.” Notably absent as signatories, however, were county and state-level democrats.
Lancaster city Mayor Danene Sorace, a Democrat, did not sign the letter. However, on Sunday she said that Lancaster County is not prepared to move out of the red phase.
“The City does not condone or support any actions in contradiction of the governor's order,” Sorace said in a Facebook post. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Sorace said the mayor had no new statement.
“It is premature and ill-advised,” Rep. Mike Sturla (D., Lancaster city) said in a call after the letter came out on Sunday. “But I also think that it's sort of sad that this is, at least from all appearances, a political move moreso than anything else.”
“Has everything been smooth and understandable and everything we wanted it to be in the midst of a pandemic that no one has seen for a 100 years? No, but that doesn't mean we need to add more chaos to the process, political chaos in particular.”
Some central Pennsylvania counties that were leaning toward a similar move as that of Lancaster's Republicans have begun to reverse course.
On Monday, the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners clarified that would not be moving unilaterally to reopen after receiving advice that doing so would have no legal basis and could endanger the business licenses of those who defy the state's emergency declaration.
Parsons declined to say what advice the Lancaster County solicitor provided about the county deciding not to abide by Wolf's plan.
Meantime, the chair of the York County Commissioners on Monday said the board is only advocating to have the county moved to the yellow category, not vowing to do so on its own, PennLive reported. Perry County also as of Monday morning had decided to abide by Wolf's orders, according to PennLive.
Lebanon County Commission Chairman Robert Phillips also told PennLive this week that he is reevaluating his position following Wolf’s press conference Monday.
Staff writer Gillian McGoldrick contributed to this report.