PennPIRG is calling on Gov. Tom Wolf to hit the reset button on the state’s response to containing the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as cases surge to concerning levels. More than 1,000 health professionals nationwide, including 96 from Pennsylvania, have now signed an open letter to America’s decision makers urging them to shut it down, start over, and do it right this time to contain COVID-19 and save lives. The letter can be found at https://uspirg.org/resources/usp/shut-it-down-start-over-do-it-rig
“Governor Wolf needs to hit the reset button,” said Emma Horst-Martz, PennPIRG advocate. “Although we slowed the virus down in the spring, we moved too quickly to reopen without hitting key benchmarks to be able to squash future outbreaks before they explode. And now we’re facing the consequences.”
The group is urging Wolf to close non-essential businesses, limit restaurant service to take-out, and mandate that masks be worn in all situations, indoors and outdoors, where people interact with others. People should stay home, going out only to get food and medicine or to exercise and get fresh air, PennPIRG said.
These protocols should stay in place until the positivity rate, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive, is at 2 percent or lower on average statewide. Health experts agree that’s low enough that they’d feel confident the current outbreak is under control.
Even still, once the positivity rate hits 2 percent or lower, the state should not start reopening again unless it meets the following criteria laid out by health experts:
• Enough daily testing capacity to test everyone with flu-like symptoms plus anyone they have been in close contact with over the last two weeks (at least 10 additional tests per symptomatic person).
• A workforce of contact tracers large enough to trace all current cases.
• Enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep essential workers such as health professionals, emergency responders and grocery store clerks safe.
PennPIRG is also urging the Trump Administration and Congress to provide a national strategy and resources for ramping up testing infrastructure around the country and ensuring that all essential workers get adequate PPE.
“Telling the hard truths and making the hard calls now will save more lives later. That’s why we’re calling on our leaders to rise up to the challenge. Half measures will only lead to more suffering,” said Horst-Martz.