Calling Wolf’s plan ‘progress,’ Toomey outlines his own plan to reopen Pa.

    U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., speaks during an event at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa., on Wednesday, 10/9/19 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

    U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has rolled out a three-stage plan of his own to reopen Pennsylvania that moves more quickly than one envisioned by Gov. Tom Wolf. 

    Toomey’s plan would mean outdoor-based work such as construction sites and plant nurseries could resume immediately and hospitals could begin performing elective procedures again, the Lehigh Valley lawmaker said on a conference call with home state journalists on Thursday.

    Toomey’s proposal comes just a day after Wolf, a Democrat, unveiled his county-by-county approach to gradually lifting restrictions aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19. 

    In a call with reporters Thursday afternoon, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said he reached out to Wolf to commend him on his plan for reopening the state and suggested the governor look at his plan for “constructive suggestions.”

    Like Wolf’s plan, Toomey’s approach is also broken into three phases to gradually release the state from its COVID-induced shutdown, but Toomey said his plan will reopen the state sooner. 

    Another crucial difference between the two plans are conditions for reopening. 

    Wolf has said that his plan does not allow for any businesses to reopen prior to the predetermined May 8 target date to begin, the “yellow phase.” 

    At which point, only some businesses will be able to reopen, following “aggressive mitigation” procedures. Restaurants and bars would remain open only for takeout and delivery and entertainment venues like theaters and casinos would remain closed as well as gyms and spas. 

    Schools would also remain closed during the yellow phase of Wolf’s plan.

    Under phase two of Toomey’s plan, schools could reopen and the state’s restaurants, bars and gyms could resume business “with proper social distancing and hygiene protocols.”

    In counties with few cases of COVID-19, businesses could reopen in phase one under Toomey’s plan. 

    “It would allow us to move forward in areas that always have been safe or are becoming more safe,” Toomey said of his plan. 

    According to the plan, counties could move from phase-to-phase if evidence shows that:

    • Local hospital capacity is not at risk of being overwhelmed;
    • There is reduced or minimal risk of COVID-19 transmission in the county. 

    On the call, economist and New York University professor Dr. Paul Romer said, “We have to find a way to fight the virus that isn’t as damaging as lockdown.”

    Romer, whose daughter is an Intensive Care Unit nurse in Philadelphia, believes with Toomey, that testing is the key to ending the state’s lockdown. 

    Toomey said that scaling up the state’s testing capacity was “essential” to his plan for reopening the state. 

    On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill. The bill, which allocates $25 billion for COVID-19 testing, passed the House Thursday in a 388-5 vote.

    Toomey said that he was in favor of allocating additional resources to the cause. 

    Toomey and Romer said that more testing would allow the state to reopen, isolating only the people who are infected.

    Cassie Miller
    A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.