Gov. Wolf, what is stopping Mifflin, Juniata counties from going yellow?

Friday’s announcement of a new list of counties soon going to the “yellow” phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s gradual reopening plan for Pennsylvania’s economy came and went and yet again, Mifflin and Juniata counties found themselves left off it.

This latest group of counties is concentrated in the southwestern portion of the state — the closest to us going yellow in this group is Blair — and even includes Allegheny County, which is home to Pittsburgh, the state’s second-largest city.

How exactly is a major metropolitan area and population center like Pittsburgh more ready to go yellow than rural Mifflin and Juniata counties?

We’re still waiting for the governor to give us a satisfying answer to that. We’re not holding our breath for one either.

Truth be told, we think Mifflin County should have been included with the original 24 counties that went yellow Friday (which included three counties that border Mifflin County). And in the name of honesty, we could at least understand why Juniata County was held out the first time despite its recent positive trend as it had a very high number of total cases based on its population density.

But there’s no justifiable reason why Juniata or Mifflin shouldn’t have been in this second group.

In fact, while we’re at it, there’s no justifiable reason why the sole power to pick which counties can do what should rest with the governor. We feel the counties themselves are in a much better position to make that call than a governor who probably can’t remember the last time he was in Mifflin, Juniata or a number of other similar counties still stuck on red.

But don’t take our word for it. Just ask the people we elected to represent us in Harrisburg.

“Every reasonable measure indicates that our region absolutely should be progressing toward reopening,” said state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, whose 34th District encompasses Mifflin and Juniata counties. “The Department of Health Secretary admitted (Thursday) that there was a ‘data dump’ that has skewed the numbers. Keeping our area closed just shows that Gov. Wolf is ignoring the data and science and instead is allowing politics to guide his decisions. People in this area want to get back to work and are capable of getting back to their lives safely. They need to be on the path toward yellow and ultimately green for a full reopening.”

“This is absurd,” state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff said. “Since the beginning, this governor has said ‘data’ and ‘science’ would direct his decision making. What happened? There is no data-driven justification for keeping Mifflin County closed. None. Mifflin County can safely open, and should safely open. Hardworking people are smart enough and responsible enough to safely care for themselves, their clients and their neighbors, without the government trying to control their every move. Isn’t it hard work that made America? The people of Mifflin County have done what was asked of them for months, and they should not have to wait another day. Government should never be able to take away your right and ability to put food on the table for your family.”

“First, I questioned why Mifflin and Juniata counties could not open, while some neighboring counties were given permission to do so,” said state Rep. John Hershey. “The governor’s reopening of certain counties while refusing to include the Juniata Valley defies all reason other than the pure politics of taking care of his Democrat friends. The average resident of my district feels safe, and they want to return to work. I’m saddened that the governor’s decision making process is not allowing them to do so, and disappointed that he continues to neglect sharing the ‘science and data’ he apparently follows with the legislature.”

“Our small business owners have reached their breaking point,” state Rep. Rich Irvin said. “Many are choosing to reopen in defiance of Gov. Wolf. After being closed for such a long-extended period of time, I have the confidence in our citizens and business owners to make the correct choices while doing their part to ease the spread of COVID-19.”

We’re generally not ones to believe in conspiracy theories, but the seemingly-arbitrary selection process does make us wonder what makes Mifflin and Juniata counties different than so many others allowed to go yellow.

And until the governor gives us that explanation we brought up earlier, that’s really, frustratingly, all we can do.


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