The state of Pennsylvania yesterday ordered work on "non-life-sustaining businesses" to halt immediately, including work at thousands of construction sites in the state, with enforcement actions to begin tomorrow.
This was followed by an order that "no person or entity shall operate a place of business in the Commonwealth that is not a life-sustaining business regardless of whether the business is open to members of the public".
The governor argued that the action was essential to safeguarding "the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians". He said: "This virus is an invisible danger that could be present everywhere. We need toâ€¯actâ€¯with the strength we useâ€¯againstâ€¯any other severe threat. And, we need to act now before the illness spreads more widely."
As of Thursday evening, the state had 185 cases of Covid-19 and one death.
On Monday of this week, the state closed down transport projects with a total value of $6.6bn and shut all state and county building maintenance offices for at least two weeks (see Further reading).
However, a row is brewing over a pipeline expansion project being undertaken by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, intended to transport shale gas to a terminal in Marcus Hook. The commission is arguing that the project is exempt from the shut-down order.
The governor’s office has said exemptions may be granted if there were "extenuating circumstances", however a list produced by the governor’s office appeared to rule out all construction activities.
The Engineering News-Record reported that the General Building Contractors Association in Philadelphia was "actively seeking a grace period for construction projects to ensure that stability and security can be maintained during a temporary shutdown", and asking "whether work for life-sustaining businesses such as hospitals/medical facilities will be permitted to remain operational".
Image: Governor Tom Wolf (Governor’s Office)