A Message to the People of Pennsylvania from Dauphin County Board Chairman Jeff Haste

 May 8, 2020 

To the People of Pennsylvania:

Enough is enough. It is time to reopen the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and return our state to the people (as prescribed by our Constitution) and not run it as a dictatorship.

When COVID-19 first entered our state, we needed to take quick and decisive action to minimize its impact. The state was closed so that we could flatten the curve and ensure that our health care systems and hospitals were able to function within their resources. Pennsylvanians complied. 

COVID-19 was an unknown foe. We had a lot to learn and have since gained a better understanding. Make no mistake, to those with impaired immune systems, certain medical conditions and the elderly, COVID-19 is dangerous and can be deadly. Now our citizens understand what is needed to protect themselves and others. We see how to implement these procedures as we go to the grocery store or big box stores. Our smaller businesses, restaurants, realtors, dentists, doctors and more have seen and learned what needs to be done. Data shows that COVID-19 is a critical issue in confined living areas and with our elderly and immunity-impaired populations. The general population can continue to work and function within the “new normal.” Our businesses and citizens have learned this; however, the governor and his health secretary have not, thus part of the reason for the Wall Street Journal giving our governor a failing grade.

In Dauphin County, our health care systems and hospitals sprang into action and prepared for the worst. Overall, the worst did not come. Some of our facilities had more than 40% of their beds empty, not performing routine procedures. As of this writing, 48% of our 141 ventilators are in use; six (4%) are in use for COVID-19-related cases; 62 (44%) for non-COVID-19 cases; and 73 (52%) are not in use. Clearly, our ventilators are not maxed out.

Let's put some of the numbers in perspective, since Gov. Wolf and Health Secretary Levine say decisions will be “data-driven.” As of this writing, Pennsylvania has a total of 54,238 cases, or 0.4% of the state's population. Dauphin County has 764 cases, or 0.274% of our population. Pennsylvania has 3,616 deaths, or 0.028% of the population. Dauphin County has 29 deaths, or 0.0105% of our county’s population. 

Here in Dauphin County, 192 (25%) of the 764 cases are in nursing homes, while 24 (65%) of our coronavirus deaths are in nursing homes.  If you remove the nursing home cases from the equation, 0.2% of the county’s general population has tested positive. Not 20%, not 2%, but 0.2%.

Since Gov. Wolf closed the state to minimize the 54,238 positive cases, more than 1,793,200 Pennsylvanians have lost their jobs. This decision has ruined the livelihood of millions of hard-working Pennsylvanians in exchange for 0.4% of our population. I have great sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. I also have great concern for the families that now have to struggle with financial concerns, mental health stress, addiction and more because of the shutdown. Again, our governor has pitted groups of Pennsylvanians against one another.

And he has not included county commissioners in this process.

This need not happen — enough is enough. We should focus our efforts on making sure our nursing homes have the supplies, staff, testing and whatever else they need to protect their residents and staff. Our health care systems and hospitals have shown they can handle the pressures of COVID-19 and have capacity to spare.

Allow our businesses and communities to reopen. For centuries, our people and businesses have shown they can adapt to changes to survive and prosper. They cannot, however, do a thing when a dictator and an unelected secretary place them in lockdown.

I trust and have faith in the great people and businesses of Pennsylvania to operate in a manner that protects those of our population in harm's way and allows our residents to go back to work, enjoy their communities and have a quality of life. I, however, have no faith in Gov. Wolf and Secretary Levine's ability to do the right thing.

Open the state and return our Commonwealth to the people.

Enough is enough.


Jeff Haste
Dauphin County Board of Commissioners