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Legislature Votes To End Gov. Tom Wolf's Pandemic State Of Emergency But Maintains Many COVID-Related Regulations

HARRISBURG (KDKA) - Pennsylvania's state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic is now officially over.

The state Senate concurred on Thursday with the House of Representatives to end Governor Wolf's declaration of emergency, but in a bit of a twist voted to allow some of the governor's measures to remain in place.

When voters approved two constitutional amendments in May, they gave the state legislature the power unilaterally to rescind any governor's emergency declarations after 21 days.

The Republican-controlled legislature has now done that. But working with their Democratic colleagues, lawmakers realized a total repeal might have unfortunate consequences.

When it comes to a COVID state of emergency in Pennsylvania, "Yes, it's over," says Pennsylvania Sen. Kim Ward, the Senate Majority Leader, a Republican.

"We join about seven other states that have ended their state of emergency," says Ward.

That's what voters wanted, says Ward, when they gave the General Assembly the power to overrule a governor's declaration, but on Thursday, Republicans joined Democrats to preserve many of the governor's actions during COVID.

"The emergency is over, but things that were put into place to help protect businesses and families are still staying in place for a few more months until we get a chance to go through them all," says Ward.

These are waivers to existing laws declared by Wolf that would have ended on Thursday had the legislature not voted to extend them through Sept. 30. It includes allowing doctors to practice using telemedicine and expanding those who can provide care in nursing homes and hospitals.

"Those who deliver healthcare, who are retired doctors and nurses and nursing students, for example, all who have been granted authority to exercise and practice during the pandemic, their authority will continue," says Pennsylvania Sen. Jay Costa, the Senate Minority Leader, a Democrat.

Another example of a waiver, says Costa, is with medical marijuana.

"We provided curbside services and other relaxed regulations. They will be able to continue now as well," says Costa.

The extension of these waivers now gives the legislature time to decide which ones to keep or overturn.

Ironically, one regulation so identified with the pandemic -- mask-wearing -- remains unaffected by the legislature's actions ending the emergency.

"The mask-wearing isn't affected by the declaration of an emergency because it's controlled by the Department of Health Secretary under the 1955 Disease & Prevention Act," says Ward.

In Pennsylvania, if you are fully vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask unless you choose to do so. If you are still unvaccinated, you must wear a mask indoors until 70 percent of Pennsylvanians are vaccinated or June 28.

Offices, retail stores and restaurants are free to set their own rules, and there are places like hospitals, nursing homes and airports where masks are still required of everyone.

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