May 5, 2020 Contact: Sam DeMarco
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 412.370.1737
PITTSBURGH – Allegheny County Republican Chairman Sam DeMarco today issued the following statement regarding Gov. Wolf’s decision to continue a business shutdown in Allegheny and other southwestern Pennsylvania counties.
I’m here today to tell Governor Tom Wolf that, we the people of Allegheny County, have done our part. Now it’s time for him to do his.
We accepted and went along with the initial closings because we were told it was necessary to flatten the curve and protect our healthcare systems from being overwhelmed.
We understood our policy makers were working with limited data and cooperated fully while the models were proven wrong again and again. But now it’s time to start reopening Allegheny County and allowing those that can, to go back to work.
Every day brings more suffering and despair. Every day means the end of one or more businesses and the jobs they provided through no fault of their own.
It’s time to go back to work. We’re not naive. We understand changes will have to be made. We realize practicing better hygiene, social distancing and masks may become a “new normal” for the foreseeable future. But yet, the Governor refuses to lift his stay at home order and what’s worse, refuses to provide us with adequate information as to why.
I'm here today because it is time for someone to call out the Wolf administration and its allies for the feckless and dishonest way they have been handling the current public health crisis.
From the secrecy surrounding the way they have handed out business closure waivers to a lucky few, to the unreliable count of actual COVID cases, Governor Wolf is quickly losing the trust of the people he governs. The governor insists his decisions are ‘data-driven.’ He and his political friends say we must ‘believe in science’ in how we behave. In fact, people who question his judgment are derided as extremists or ‘science-deniers.’
These are easy positions to take when you are still receiving a handsome salary funded by the very people whose jobs you have taken away. It’s easy to counsel patience when you’re not the one hurting. And it’s easy to invoke an emergency as a reason to defy state open records laws, even as the records sit in a computer file that can be shared with the press of a button.
Let’s look at the data, starting with the governor’s.
The day after protests began, the governor’s Secretary of Health added 269 deaths to the statistics only to have to remove 201 of them a few days later after questioning from County Coroners. This was not the only adjustment, just the largest. These “corrections” are happening repeatedly. So, we know there are problems with the math. What about the science? What exactly is the science or the data driving these decisions? And what is the science we are to believe?
Unfortunately, we don’t know.
For weeks, Wolf has refused repeated requests to release the data behind his shutdown order. He has also ignored lawmakers’ requests for transparency and blocked the media and public from looking at these numbers. Instead, the Wolf administration, with the acquiescence of his allies here, has treated Allegheny County as if it were Philadelphia and Montgomery.
We’re not. Our own numbers are vastly different and warranted a very different approach. Let’s look at the data that is available to the public.
To date as of May 4, Allegheny County has conducted 18,502 tests with only 1,365 positives, or 7.4% of those tested. Of those testing positive, only 240 of those required any hospitalization. We’ve had 102 deaths of which 79 were from long term care facilities. The average age of those who died is 84. Of these 102 deaths, more than 95% were elderly and all with co-morbidities.
UPMC’s Doctor Donald Yealy has made the case that the real death rate for this virus may be as low as 0.25% - far lower than the mortality rates cited earlier in this pandemic. He based this upon a very conservative estimate of residents already exposed to the virus in keeping with results from antibody testing in other areas like New York and California.
We know who we need to protect: our elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. This can be done without applying a straight jacket to the entire economy. It’s easy for a comfortable bureaucrat with a steady income to deride the frustrated people who take to the streets to demand an end to their despair. People enamored of their own power usually miss the point when protests begin.
Consider this tweet by the press officer for Jay Costa, the Senate Minority Leader. A few days before the protests began outside the state Capitol, she posted this:
“Hundreds of science-deniers are descending on my workplace to make a political point,” she writes. "I understand being frustrated and wanting to get back to work and normalcy, but Monday’s rally is an attack. It’s an attack on legislators who are going to the Capitol, on state government staff, on Capitol security, and truly – on each of the participants in this nonsense.”
The author of this message earns $99,000 a year, is pension-eligible, and enjoys medical coverage unavailable to many of the people she ridicules as “science-deniers.” She can profitably work at great distance from others because he has not been socially distanced from a handsome salary. And her party says it understands the needs and dreams of the working class.
And by the way – on the days she comes into the Capitol – it’s safely locked down and unavailable to the public, much less protesters. This was just an example of the class-warfare being waged on working families.
Ignoring the pain of others is easy for a governor who doesn’t have to face the voters again.
But I have a warning for his enablers in the legislature.
You will face the voters again. This November. You need to stop making excuses. People are without jobs. At least a half million of them can’t even get through to a broken-down unemployment compensation system to obtain the benefits they paid for. Thousands of small businesses might never reopen. It’s time recognize that we are facing a pandemic as deadly as COVID. It’s called despair. And the only cure is to open up the records so the press and public can examine how you decided who works and who doesn’t.
If you’re right, the documents will show it.
If you’re wrong, or have greatly overstepped, then do the right thing, and reopen the economy here in Allegheny and southwestern Pennsylvania.
You might have stripped working families and small businesses of their incomes, but you have not taken away their votes.
It’s time to reopen Allegheny County now. Consider this a warning