Re-OpenPA Rally at State Capitol

Despite what public protests suggest, most Americans support restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19. Pictured here is an April 20, 2020, ReopenPA rally at the state Capitol in Harrisburg.

THE ISSUE

As of Monday afternoon, Pennsylvania had seen 50,092 cases of COVID-19 and 2,458 deaths, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Lancaster County had 1,991 confirmed cases and, according to county Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni, 201 deaths.

As part of an event titled "Call to Unite," former President George W. Bush released a video message over the weekend about this “challenging and solemn time in the life of our nation and world.”

The video, less than three minutes long, imparted a powerful message about how we should be facing the “remorseless, invisible enemy” that is COVID-19. In its resolutely apolitical tone and content, it seemed like a relic from another time.

Bush thanked the medical professionals “risking their own health for the health of others.” He noted that officials “at every level are setting out the requirements of public health that protect us all, and we all need to do our part.”

He noted that “empathy and simple kindness are essential powerful tools of national recovery.”

And he urged Americans to remember “how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat. In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants — we are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”

If you haven’t watched the video in its entirety, we’d urge you to do so. We’d urge elected officials, in particular, to watch it.

We’ve watched with dismay the politicization of COVID-19.

Republican state lawmakers clearly are unhappy with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf because he shut down most Pennsylvania businesses last month, and because his plan to reopen the commonwealth in phases doesn’t reopen it quickly enough.

“Disagreeing with ideas doesn’t inherently make someone partisan,” as Republican state Sen. Ryan Aument, of Mount Joy, tweeted Monday.

Aument is correct about this, and correct in his assertion that Wolf should have been more transparent in his decision-making.

But the tenor of the rhetoric has been decidedly partisan.

And somehow, the narrative has become roughly this: You’re an anti-business liberal if you’re worried about states and businesses opening too soon. Or you’re a heartless conservative if you are pushing for businesses and states to reopen.

In reality, conservatives as well as liberals worry about being infected and sickened by COVID-19, and about their loved ones getting ill, too. And liberals as well as conservatives have been laid off or fear losing their small businesses.

As Bush said, the remorseless enemy we face is COVID-19, not one another. It’s an enemy that has required us to take unprecedented and economically painful measures.

Most Americans — including most Pennsylvanians — support those measures. It’s precisely because they do that you won’t find them unmasked and rallying at the state Capitol.

A bipartisan consensus of Americans “opposes a rapid ‘reopening’ of the economy,” according to a new national survey led by researchers from Harvard Kennedy School, Northeastern University and Rutgers University. “Only 7% support immediate reopening of the economy, and the median respondent supports waiting four to six weeks.”

A Pennsylvania poll found similarly bipartisan views of the measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19 in this commonwealth.

Harper Polling found that 74% of those surveyed between April 21-26 agreed with Pennsylvania’s closure of nonessential businesses; 82% agreed with the closure of schools; and 82% agreed with the state’s stay-at-home order, which will be partly lifted in 24 rural northern counties Friday.

Asked when they will return to normal activities — such as eating out and participating in large social gatherings — after state and federal authorities lift restrictions, only 20% said “immediately.” Fifty-three percent said “after some time has passed and coronavirus cases have declined significantly,” and 21% said “when a vaccine has been successfully deployed.”

That reluctance isn’t based on unfounded fears. It’s based on a keen awareness of the obstacles we will face in returning to some semblance of normality — however eager we may be to return to it.

In a hearing held Monday, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Lancaster County won’t be able to move soon from the Wolf administration’s “red” phase into the “yellow” phase — in which some work and social restrictions would be lifted. This is because, Levine said, Lancaster County is “still having significant community transmission.”

The hearing was co-chaired by Republican state Sen. Scott Martin, of Martic Township, who chairs the Senate Local Government Committee.

In response to Levine, Martin pointed to the significant number of cases in Lancaster Township nursing homes, while noting that many other parts of the county are rural.

But LNP | LancasterOnline reports that while most COVID-19 deaths indeed have been in Lancaster and Manheim townships, there have also been 34 deaths in other parts of the county since April 21, according to data reported by the county coroner, Dr. Diamantoni, and recorded on the county’s website.

The townships that have had COVID-19 deaths include Rapho, East Hempfield, East Cocalico, Providence, Salisbury, Paradise, Penn and Warwick.

We haven’t checked the political affiliations of those we know have succumbed to COVID-19; there’s no need. Because no matter their circumstances — Democratic, Republican, independent, rural, urban, suburban, elderly or middle-aged — they were our neighbors.

Their loved ones remain our neighbors.

And as former President Bush said, our charge is simple: “We serve our neighbor by separating from them.” We keep in mind “that the suffering we experience as a nation does not fall evenly.”

And we see one another as human beings, as fellow Americans and Pennsylvanians, who rise and fall together, and are determined — no matter how long it takes — to rise.