BEAVER, Pa. (KDKA) – The Beaver County District Attorney’s Office will not prosecute businesses that open in violation of Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdown order.
“The current orders defining which businesses are ‘life sustaining’ and which are not ‘life sustaining’ bear no rational basis to the businesses impacted and the ability of a business to operate in a safe manner and are therefore unenforceable,” District Attorney David Lozier said.
Lozier says he recommends the police do not get involved on enforcing the states orders. As for businesses with state licenses, he says it’s up to the owner to take that risk. All he can say is he will not prosecute locally. @KDKA
— Nicole Ford (@NicoleFordTV) May 8, 2020
This decision comes after the governor’s announcement on Friday that 13 southwestern counties would move to the “yellow” phase on May 15. The list did not include Beaver County, which would stay in the “red” phase where the stay-at-home order is still in effect.
“We found out last night that they put a wall around Beaver County, it was just so disheartening,” said County Commissioner Tony Amadio.
WATCH: KDKA’s Nicole Ford Reports Live In Beaver County
In a press conference, Wolf addressed his decision by stating it was too soon for Beaver County and the time was not right. He told reporters he did not agree with the county’s decision to not enforce the shutdown order.
“If they go ahead and do that, they’re taking a chance — taking a chance with the lives of residents and the citizens of Beaver County. I think I’d be a little careful in doing that,” Gov. Wolf said.
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Amadio along with the other county commissioners said the governor told local leaders his decision was based off the number of positive cases and deaths coming out of Brighton Rehab and Wellness Center.
“The nursing home outbreak is not a new development, it’s been going on for weeks and this administration’s irrational decision to sit on the sidelines at the beginning and the Department of Health’s failed oversight has now resulted in that administration punishing all of Beaver County,” said Commissioner Daniel Camp.
Camp tells KDKA to date there are 333 positive COVID-19 cases between residents and staff plus 71 related deaths in this nursing home. There are 78 coronavirus-related deaths in Beaver County total.
County Commissioner Jack Manning said it doesn’t make sense everyone else in the region can open, while the governor “puts a wall” around Beaver County for one nursing home. He said it’s his job to protect the welfare of businesses and residents, which is why he won’t be backing the governor’s decision.
#NOW Beaver Co. Commissioner Jack Manning says how does it make sense that everyone else in the region can open, but not Beaver County? He says his job is to protect the welfare of businesses and residents, which is why he is not backing the @GovernorTomWolf decision. @KDKA pic.twitter.com/Nx4AlzYv6C
— Nicole Ford (@NicoleFordTV) May 8, 2020
The commissioners said the county will act as if they are transitioning to the “yellow” phase with the rest of the region on May 15.
“It’s a dire situation for what has always been the heartbeat and lifeblood of the economy of Beaver County, the riverfront towns and small business community,” Manning said.
It’s a decision some local business owners are excited to hear.
“There are so many businesses and people who put their whole lives all their income into their businesses, and I’m telling you, the businesses in Beaver were booming before this catastrophe was put upon us,” said Kathy Kirby who owns Design Innovations in Beaver.
“It’ll be very, very safe and we’re only going to allow two people at a time in the store,” said Diane Ward, co-owner of Boutique No. 443.
Kirby said she plans to reopen her business on Monday.
“Businesses are capable of taking care of their patrons. We always have and we always will,” Kirby said.
When businesses first started to close, there were a lot of questions surrounding the Cracker Plant. When it comes to reopening, Camp tells KDKA the plant officials are taking a lot more precautions and are doing everything to comply with CDC guidelines.
“I just hope that everybody stays safe, stays smart, but we’ve got to get this county rolling again,” said Jamie Leheny, owner of Canine Kingdom.