Commissioners call Gov. Wolf's decision to keep Dauphin County in Phase Red arbitrary and inconsistent, declare Dauphin County 'business sanctuary' and won't enforce Gov.'s non-essential business closure order

HARRISBURG, PA (May 15, 2020) – In response to Gov. Wolf’s announcement today that Dauphin County will remain in the Red Phase for the foreseeable future, Commissioners Jeff Haste and Mike Pries call into question the Governor’s decision and state Department of Health (DOH) data and metrics for reopening counties. The commissioners are seriously concerned about the impact on Dauphin County businesses that remain closed under the Governor’s stay-at-home order.

“The Governor’s decision today to keep Dauphin, Lebanon and Lancaster counties shut down while neighboring counties begin to reopen is nothing more than political payback,” said Haste, who chairs the board of commissioners. “Rather than listen to the people of Pennsylvania, he pits groups of people against each other and puts out misleading data to back up his cause. We’ve heard from hundreds of residents and business owners that the time to reopen is now.”

Haste added that Dauphin County has worked tirelessly to prioritize testing, as the state has encouraged.

According DOH data available earlier this week, Cumberland County tested a total of 3,094 individuals, while Dauphin County tested a total of 7,594 – or 2.45 times more than Cumberland. Data on testing can be found at

A breakdown of those tested is as follows:

  • Cumberland tested 3,094. Of this total, 477, or 15 percent, tested positive. A total of 2,617, or 85 percent, tested negative. 
  • Dauphin County tested 7,594. Of this total, 895, or 12 percent, tested positive. A total of 6,699, 88 percent, tested negative – three points better than Cumberland County. 

“Based on these figures, Dauphin County has performed two-and-a-half times as many tests as Cumberland County and, it seems, is being punished for it,” said Haste.

Here is a breakdown of available ventilators, according to the DOH:

  • Cumberland County total of 80.
    • 7 or 9 percent of those, are being used for COVID-19.
    • 21, or 26 percent, for non-COVID-19. 52, or 64 percent, are available. 
    • Dauphin County total of 140.
      • 3, or 2 percent of those, are being used for COVID-19.
      • 53, or 38 percent, are non-COVID-19.
      • 84, or 60 percent, are available.  

The number of deaths from COVID-19 is as follows:

  • Cumberland a total of 37, or 1 in every 6,758 citizens
  • Dauphin a total of 40, or 1 in every 6,955 citizens

“Looking at these numbers, it’s obvious that our healthcare system is not overwhelmed,” said Pries. “Why keep local businesses closed while thousands of people a day pack into the big-box stores? We have flattened the curve and want to reopen our county in a gradual and safe way that balances public health with the economy.”

Haste agreed, adding that Dauphin is a “business sanctuary county.”

“No business that reopens and follows the appropriate CDC and DOH safety precautions will be prosecuted in Dauphin County,” Haste emphasized. “District Attorney Fran Chardo and Sheriff Nick Chimienti have said they will not enforce the Governor’s order to keep ‘non-essential businesses’ closed, because they understand that many small business owners are trying to make a living, feed their families and pay their employees.”

The district attorney’s full statement can be found here:

The sheriff’s statement can be found at

To help the community prepare for reopening, the county commissioners this week formed the Reopen and Restore Dauphin County Task Force to gather local input and develop a recovery plan:

“This Governor has resorted to attacks on desperate people simply trying to make a living,” said Pries. “Our goal to bring back our economy and keep people safe remains the same.”