Erie lawmakers express anger, frustration over failure to move Erie to green

Call for action on Erie County Courthouse steps

ERIE, June 5 – Joined by fellow Erie lawmakers on the steps of the county courthouse, state Reps. Pat Harkins, Bob Merski, and Ryan Bizzarro, all D-Erie, expressed deep frustration that Erie is not among the counties moving to the green phase of the state’s reopen plan Friday, June 12.

“We had a conference call with one of the governor’s staff, and it did not go well,” Harkins said. “Secretary Levine was on the call. We presented the numbers we are working from, and we asked for additional information. We never received it.

“As I was on the phone most of last evening, my line was blowing up with calls from residents and business owners I totally sympathize with. Then, this morning, after we had a press call arranged with the governor, he jumped off the call.

“I ran for this office 14 years ago to speak for people who don’t have a voice in Harrisburg. Now, I feel like we don’t have a voice. I worked with the Teamsters and with UPS for 25 years, and I have never experienced anything like this. I have supported Tom Wolf and worked well with him, but this is uncalled for. We need to stick together and do what we have to do to move Erie green.”

Merski said, “Today, from the data we received from the state, there are five new cases. We’re keeping this county closed for five new cases. This is ridiculous.

“I have stuck with the governor and I have said from day one, I will listen to the medical professionals. Our two major local hospitals – UPMC Hamot and St. Vincent – have both said they are ready to go green. Our health department today issued a statement saying that we need to look at this differently, because what we are doing is not changing behavior.

“I taught for 19 years. If you give a kid detention every day, and the behavior does not change, that detention becomes meaningless. I feel like Harrisburg is keeping Erie in detention and the outcome they are looking for isn’t going to happen. We need to let our businesses open safely and let people go out and support them. It’s time for us to make the move to green.”

Bizzarro said, “Erie has done an excellent job of early mitigation efforts. We were among the first counties to be proactive. Now, it feels like we are being punished because our numbers were so low and now there is a slight increase.

“The maximum number of cases we have had in one day is 25 – still below many other counties out there. To treat us the same as Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware and other Southeast counties where the infection rate is still spreading rapidly is uncalled for.

“Our patience is wearing thin. I am demanding for Erie to be put in the green phase immediately. If it’s not, I am urging businesses to operate as if they were in the green phase today. I think our county is able to contain efforts and effectively trace, and I hope our county executive supports those efforts, as well,” he said.

Wolf announced during a press briefing today that Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Northumberland, Union, Wayne, Wyoming and York will move to the green phase next Friday, June 12

Earlier this week, the lawmakers sent a letter to the governor urging him to move Erie to the green phase of the state’s reopen plan.