Lifting lockdown: The Pitt

When I first thought about creating a timeline to make sense of the lockdown in PA, my first thought was “there but for the grace of God go I.”

Because that’s just the kind of spaghetti we’re dealing with.

What follows is at least an effort at making sense of the nonsensical. An effort at figuring out what (if anything) drove the lockdown in PA the first time, or the most recent one announced last week.

This timeline cannot be anywhere near as clean as O-H-I-O was. Any incoherence is not my fault.

Same format, different characters, and a less coherent storyline. Let’s (try to) do this.

April 23: — Gov. Wolf unveils a three-phase reopening plan for the state.

May 8: in a post on Instagram, PwrBld leader Collin Whitney announces the gym will open on May 18th.

May 11: — Multiple gyms, such as 10X Fitness in Taylor, PA, announce similar plans.

May 12: — Crawford County’s DA, among others, say that they will not prosecute businesses that violate Gov. Wolf’s lockdown orders. — Hit with multiple citations, 10X Fitness in Taylor, PA is forced to close.

May 13: — Alpha Fitness leader Jeremiah Snyder makes it rather clear that he, too, had no plans to shut down. — Gov. Wolf and Dr. Levine admit they have no real criteria for the yellow or green phases.

It’s always great when your builder builds the entrance but forgot the exit, isn’t it?

May 14: — Gov. Wolf starts to attack businesses that open in defiance of his orders; calling them “cowardly.” That didn’t go over well.

May 15: — Whitney’s plan to open PwrBld makes headlines. This leads to a torrent of messages on 6ABC’s Facebook calling Whitney just about everything; more or less saying PwrBld will be the site of the next outbreak.

That didn’t happen, by the way. — He also appeared on the Philly in CBS, asking a very simple question: if a Wal-Mart can be open, why not a gym?

It’s a question that has gone unanswered to this day. — Meanwhile, Transcend Fitness announces their intent to open on May 16th.

May 18: PwrBld Gym opens. Nothing happens beyond that for them. In an IG Story, Whitney notes that a lot of the people who are new members are themselves first responders. People who “need the gym” as a sort of stress relief.

May 20: — While all this is going on, Atilis Gym is getting what have become their daily citation. — Gov. Wolf now says that PA can’t return to normal until people feel “perfectly safe” and there is a vaccine.

May 21: — Basically, around this time, a lot of gyms did a lot of opening in defiance of a lot of orders and social media mobs. — Restaurants, which unlike gyms ARE licensed, open their doors in defiance of orders as well around this time.

May 22: — A gym owner in the Leigh Valley announces his plan to open his gym in defiance of the lockdown, calling the situation “do or die.” —- A few counties go into the green phase. PwrBld is still open, despite its home county being in the red phase. — PA quietly revamps the Green Phase, adding the phrase “changing behavior for a new normal” without so much as a press conference. The idea presumably being people wouldn’t notice the phrase change.

May 26th:
People noticed. The phrase is quietly removed from the “reopening” plan.

May 27: — Gov. Wolf finally releases guidance on the so-called “Green Phase.”

June 3: — Dr. Levine suggests that Green Phase will stick around until a vaccine is available.

July 17: — With most of the state in the so-called “green phase,” restrictions start to come more from the counties and cities than from the state itself.

July 28: — Gov. Wolf, completely lacking in self-awareness, tells Pennsylvanians to get off unemployment benefits. This is after numerous businesses close their doors as a result of the lockdown.

August 5th: — Allegheny County continues its restrictions on restaurant capacity among other things.

August 27th: — DoJ starts looking for information from several states in regard to their handling of nursing homes.

August 31st: — Setting off a series of stories of officials not following their own restrictions, the mayor of Philadelphia was forced to apologize after being photographed dining indoors at a restaurant in Maryland after having banned indoor dining in Philly.

September 3rd: — When asked to present data justifying the restrictions on restaurant capacity by a CBS affiliate in Harrisburg, the state says that information is protected.

November 16th: — Philadelphia closes indoor dining, gyms, museums until January of 2021. — Gym owners feel they’ve “been given no choice but to fail,” as an article in Philadelphia Magazine puts it. — PwrBld, located outside the city limits, does not close.

December 10: — The closure of museums, gyms, etc. expands from Philly to the entire state. A press conference involving Gov. Wolf, Dr. Levine, and a handful of others reveals a series of “frustrating” restrictions, including the outright ban of indoor dining, and the closure of gyms. — Gyms, and small businesses react pretty much as you’d expect, observing that many of them have seen no reported cases, and are being closed down regardless. —- At least, the businesses that comply, anyway. Crack’d Egg, a restaurant that won a lawsuit against Gov. Wolf, announces that they will be “business as usual” just hours after the press conference.

PwrBld also refuses to close, with Collin telling me that PwrBld will be open “Forever. Even after the zombies come.” — Other gyms have taken the same tact.

And this is where we find PA. At this point, a quiet, continuing revolt is really the only way for businesses to survive.

Whereas gyms and other businesses saw success in kicking the doors down in Ohio via the court system, PA’s Supreme Court has more or less rubber-stamped virtually everything that came out of the Wolf administration.

The sole remaining goalpost right now is, of course, the vaccines that have been slowly releasing over the last few weeks; but even that goalpost has shifted with alarming regularity in some states. PA’s government seems almost determined to go for a lockdown, while not supporting much of anything impacted by that lockdown. (The restaurant industry has seen this first-hand, with their constant “discussions” with the State about the restrictions being unsurvivable being met with near-total indifference).

The current lockdown is supposedly only for three weeks, but of course we’ve been here before. “Just two more weeks” was the refrain used for much of the summer, and most of the fall.

The hard truth is that most of the efforts that have been successful elsewhere have been exhausted in PA. Barring a ground-level revolt, or a major turnaround in the agenda of the state’s government, there does not appear to be many remaining ways to lift the lockdown.

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