Lebanon County will soon be covered under “Stay at Home” orders issued by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.
The order will take effect at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, and will continue until at least through April 30.
The order—viewable here in PDF—now covers 33 counties in the state: Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Bucks, Butler, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Forest, Franklin, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, Somerset, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland, and York counties. Here is the amendment (PDF) that added Lebanon County.
The state provided guidance on the following “allowable individual activities”:
- Tasks essential to maintain health and safety, or the health and safety of family or household members (including pets)
- Shopping or delivering services or supplies necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences (including distributing meals and other life-sustaining services to those in need)
- Exercising outside while maintaining social distancing
- Working at a life-sustaining businesses
- Caring for a family member or pet in another household
Additional guidance was provided on “essential travel”:
- Travel related to the above-mentioned activities
- Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons
- Travel to or from educational institutions to receive materials for distance learning, meals, or other related services
- Travel to or from a place of residence from an outside jurisdiction
- Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside the commonwealth
According to the state’s press release, “law enforcement will be focused on ensuring that residents are aware of the order and informing the public of social distancing practices rather than enforcement.”
In the case that a member of the public wishes to report a noncompliant business, they are asked to contact their local police department or the nearest Pennsylvania State Police station (for Lebanon County, that would be the Jonestown station, reachable at 717-865-2194). The public is asked to not use emergency numbers for these purposes. (For Lebanon City Police, the non-emergency number is 717-272-6611.)
In a phone interview with LebTown on Monday, District Attorney Pier Hess Graf said that the Lebanon County Chiefs of Police and the Lebanon County Detectives/District Attorney’s office had met collectively and reached a unified position on how enforcement will take place.
Hess Graf emphasized that enforcement does not mean cars would be stopped randomly on the chance that they were heading to some non-authorized destination. “The basis of the interaction is not going to be shelter in place,” said Hess Graf. “We don’t believe that’s the position of law enforcement and again we just don’t believe it’s legally appropriate or enforceable.”
Hess Graf said that if an officer drove by a business that appeared to be operating in violation of the state’s guidelines, it would be up to the officer’s discretion whether to investigate further.
“Those are decisions that an officer has to make in real-time based on the attendant facts and circumstances that he or she observes in that moment,” said Hess Graf.
“What I can tell you is we made the decision that we are not going to be actively driving around and seeking out to make additional patrols to enforce the closure of nonessential businesses,” said Graf.
Graf said they would continue investigating tips they receive about businesses that may be operating outside of the orders.
“The way we’ve been dealing with it is urging people to comply with the governor’s orders, making sure they are complying, and frankly everyone has been wonderful to deal with,” said Hess Graf. “All the local businesses have been great to us so far.”
“I don’t envision shelter in place as changing that,” said Hess Graf. “We are not going to be having additional patrols to enforce shelter in place.”
Hess Graf noted that minimizing stress for the public in an already stressful time was a goal of the policy.
“We are still here to enforce the crimes code, we are still here to take dangerous criminals off the street,” said Hess Graf. “We are here to protect you, we are not here to make your day worse and we are not here to use these new developments as somehow leverage to have additional interrogation or additional detention of law-abiding citizens.”
Hess Graf said that she wasn’t certain whether any citations had been filed in regards to businesses operating outside of the state’s restriction, but was not directly aware of any citations herself.
“I just want people to understand that we’re not out there to make their days or their lives worse, we’re frankly here to do the opposite,” said Hess Graf. “That’s all we’re trying to do with this.”
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