WELLSBORO — Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) made a brief stop in Tioga County late last week and sat down with this reporter for an interview at the Main Street Creamery.
Toomey said he thought Pennsylvanians have done extraordinarily well in fighting the coronavirus, although the state government has not.
“I think the shut down of the economy, forbidding people from going to work, that very subjective and arbitrary process of determining which businesses could stay open and which ones can’t — that was all very problematic,” Toomey said. He said the lockdown extended longer than it should have.
Governor Tom Wolf recently issued an order limiting restaurants to 25% capacity for indoor dining, and other restrictions. Toomey said that was unsustainable.
“The restaurants have to go back to basically an unsustainable capacity, at only 25%, including in places like here in Tioga County where there’s been no outbreak. We’ve got a modest increase of the number of patients in Allegheny County, a couple hundred miles from here,” Toomey said. “And to have this blanket prohibition against even modest amounts of business happening at the other end of the state makes no sense.”
Prior to the interview, Toomey met with small business owners and people who are encouraging economic development and growth in the northern tier. They are very concerned, he said.
Pennsylvanians have been working hard and want to get back to resuming their normal lives, he said. That can be done, with caution.
“I think people should be wearing masks when they’re out in public and interacting with people in close proximity, and all the other protocols are important,” Toomey said. “But … people are going to lose their livelihood, people are going to lose their life savings if we continue down this road.”
Masks are now mandatory in public spaces, including stores, though some Pennsylvanians have said this mandate infringes on their rights.
“In a way, it’s kind of similar to the way I think about speed limits. I have a car. I drive my car. And the speed limit infringes on my freedom to drive it faster. But that’s a reasonable thing, because the person who gets hurt may not just be me if I drive my car too fast,” Toomey said. “Similarly, with a mask, by people wearing a mask, we’re protecting other people from the risk that they could unknowingly have the virus and could be spreading it to other people.”
Looking forward, Toomey said he hopes to see students back in school.
“I’ve got a 10-year-old son and he’s ready to go into fourth grade. I hope he is able to go to school and go to fourth grade because … it’s better for him to be in school than not to be in school,” Toomey said. “Kids have very, very little risk to coronavirus and young adults have very, very low risk.
Toomey said that though kids and young adults have little to low risk of the coronavirus, he realizes older adults work in the schools, too. He said there needs to be precautions taken to keep people safe.
He’s also confident that in three months from now, the world will be further along with therapies to treat the virus and medicines to help people get better.
“We already have a much lower fatality rate than we used to have; we have a much lower hospitalization rate than we used to have. That’s going to continue to get better. And it’s going to enable us to live with this virus, which is what we have to learn to do,” he said.