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Senador Wayne Fontana

Harrisburg, April 15, 2020 – Insisting that sound mitigation practices and indelible worker protections must be in place before re-opening additional Pennsylvania workplaces, state Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) today voted against Senate Bill 613, legislation he called “reckless.”

The measure was approved, 29 to 21. Republicans voted down a Democratic amendment that would have mandated protections for employees. The amendments would have required employers to provide protective gear for workers, paid sick leave, standards for disinfecting the workplace and stringent penalties for employers who violate the law.

Fontana made the following statement: 

“All of us want this state and our country to get back to work. I know people are scared and stay awake at night worrying how to stay afloat financially. And rightfully so.

However, we cannot afford to separate our concerns for public safety and the economy. We must have a safe, calculated and measured approach before re-opening any additional businesses.

Our decisions must be based on scientific facts and data, not political agendas and posturing. It has been made clear that testing must be made widely available. Just last evening, our nation’s top disease expert said we do not yet have the critical testing and tracing procedures needed to begin reopening the nation’s economy and he is concerned that there will be new outbreaks in locations where social distancing has eased.

Our current social distancing and stay-at-home efforts have proven that they are working to flatten the curve. Suspending this practice right now will just cause us a potential setback, which will make the economic situation even worse than what we’re facing right now. This has not been an easy task for anyone. Upending our way of life has been difficult. But the sacrifices everyone has been making, particularly our workers and business community, are necessary so that when the time comes, restrictions can be eased in a way that will lead us to economic recovery, not worrying about if we’ll be back to square one in a matter of weeks or months.

As public servants, our most important duty is to protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens. This includes making difficult decisions in challenging times. We all want businesses to reopen, employees back on the job, students back in classrooms and some semblance of normal life to resume, but that cannot happen unless we first continue mitigation efforts and follow the advice of our scientists and medical experts.

Anything contrary can set back progress and cause further harm to our economy and most importantly, to human health. It is unconscionable to vote on legislation that blatantly disregards that duty. The economic recovery we all want and we most certainly will need cannot come before a health care recovery.”

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