May 7, 2020 | By Shelby Cassesse | PittsburghCBS Local
GREENE COUNTY (KDKA) — The Greene County district attorney announced he will not prosecute business owners who reopen in defiance of Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdown order amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a release on Thursday, District Attorney David Russo said businesses that reopen on May 11 must “limit the number of customers on the premises, maintain social distancing, require personal protective equipment for employees and customers, as well as follow CDC guidelines.”
“We did what we were supposed to do. And it’s time to move on and let us open up our small businesses, in particular, that have suffered for two months without income,” said Mike Belding, chairman of the Greene County Commissioners.
If the businesses follow the guidelines, they will not be prosecuted, the district attorney said.
“I cannot in good conscience stand by and watch our economy and the small businesses in my community perish,” Russo said in a release. “If large conglomerate shopping centers, gas stations and businesses deemed essential such as beer distributors can safely operate with thousands of customers entering their stores each day then there is no reason the small business owner should not be allowed to operate under the same guidelines. Many of the businesses in Pennsylvania may not be able to recover from the Governor’s actions; I am trying to save what is left of my community.”
Greene County has 27 reported cases of coronavirus and is still in the “red” phase.
Greene is also one of four southwestern counties that have filed a federal lawsuitaimed at getting businesses back open.
Cathy Hoskins is the owner of Classy Cuts Hair Salon in Waynesburg. She is one of the businesses suing Gov. Wolf, and she plans to reopen Monday.
“What is best for my county may not be the best for more populated counties,” Russo said in a release. “Our courts, local government and essential businesses have functioned in a safe manner throughout the pandemic and local businesses should be afforded the same opportunity; every business is essential for the families relying on it to put food on their table?”
Gov. Wolf says he will announce Friday another round of counties that will be moving into the “yellow” phase of reopening.
Gov. Wolf announced the first wave of reopenings last Friday. On Friday, 24 counties in northern, rural Pa. will start to reopen, moving into the “yellow” phase where their stay-at-home orders lifted in favor of aggressive mitigation.
The April 1 stay-at-home order was set to expire at midnight, but Gov. Wolf and Secretary of Health extended the order for all counties in red until June 4. They will continue to move counties into the yellow phase in the meantime, with the next round of announcements on Friday.