This week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf expanded the state’s stay-at-home order to continue until April 30.
Schools in 33 counties will stay closed until further notice. Chartiers Valley has switched from “optional resources” for students to full-on remote teaching of standard coursework. The district has also canceled all meetings and events.
Bridgeville officials canceled all April public meetings, and the borough office is operating on an email-and-telephone-only basis. The library is closed, and bars and restaurants that haven’t closed are now serving take-out only.
Even local police are also trying to minimize person-to-person contact as much as possible.
But this is far from a total societal shutdown.
There isn’t a curfew, and police officers haven’t been stopping random drivers to ask where they’re going. Nor are authorities requiring paperwork to prove that your travel is “essential and allowable,” to borrow a phrase from the state order.
Rather, the stay-at-home decree includes a broad range of permitted reasons to leave the house, including:
- Grocery shopping
- Shopping at stores like Target and Walmart and Dollar General
- Shopping at Home Depot and other hardware stores
- Shopping at office supply stores and other retail businesses
- Traveling to get take-out food
- Traveling to pick up educational supplies
- Traveling to care for a family member or pet in another household
- Traveling to work, if your employer is still open for business.
In other words, you can’t buy a new car or a new mattress right now, but you can have your car repaired, and you can even get curbside pick-up service from the video game retailer GameStop.
Businesses deemed non-essential by the state criteria are expected to stay closed until at least the end of April. Initially, there was some confusion about which businesses were considered essential. Last week,Gov. Wolf’s office released an exhaustive list detailing which types of business are permitted to continue physical operations [see PDF below].
Of course, the relative looseness of state’s stay-at-home order doesn’t mean that you should ignore it. Pennsylvania now has 4,800 COVID-19 cases. Sixty-three of those patients have died, and approximately 10% of infected Pennsylvanians have required hospitalization.
Nearly 25% of hospitalized patients have been under 50 years old. Almost half of hospitalized patients have been under 64 years old.
Current models suggest that Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 deaths will peak in about two weeks. By late summer, more than 3,000 Pennsylvanians are projected to have died from the disease.