Fifth COVID-19 disaster declaration signed in Pennsylvania


Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a fifth COVID-19 disaster declaration on Thursday, just two days after voters approved constitutional amendments curbing his emergency powers.

He said he spoke with legislators before signing the order – a necessity to preserve the state’s pandemic response until the remainder of restrictions lift on May 31. The masking mandate will remain until 70% of residents become vaccinated, though the Department of Health specified that businesses can implement their own mask policies.

“The disaster declaration allows more medical professionals to administer vaccines, ensures families harmed financially by the pandemic have access to healthy food through SNAP benefits and ensures Pennsylvania counties and businesses remain eligible for federal disaster recovery dollars,” Wolf said Thursday. “We will continue to monitor vaccination rates and adjust mitigation orders accordingly.”

Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Greensburg, confirmed that the administration reached out to the General Assembly following the primary election. The approved amendments prohibit the governor from extending disaster declarations beyond 21 days without legislative approval, replacing a 90-day status that the administration has extended five times since the first virus cases appeared in Pennsylvania on March 6, 2020.

The changes won’t take affect until after the Department of State certifies the election results, anticipated by June 7.

“With the understanding that we work better together, the focus of the conversation between the governor and leaders of the general assembly started with how we would be granted an immediate seat at the table during times of crisis and review the extension of the emergency declaration which expires today,” Ward said.

She said part of the transition to the new rules will require the governor to share undivulged information with legislative leaders.

“These details are needed by the General Assembly to take the necessary next steps to expedite the reopening of our state,” she said. “We are committed to working with the governor to ensure the voice of the people is heard and restore liberty while preserving the fundamental principles of our democracy even during times of crisis.”

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