February 20, 2021 COMMENTARY – By Nathan Benefield
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under renewed scrutiny for his bungled nursing home policy and a subsequent coverup to avoid a Justice Department investigation. Questionable gubernatorial leadership, though, isn’t limited to the Empire State. Just look south to Pennsylvania, where Cuomo’s Democratic colleague, Tom Wolf, faces bipartisan concerns about his pandemic-era leadership.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Wolf has failed to ensure health and economic security; rejected calls for transparency; refused to work with the legislature; and enacted mandates that harmed working Pennsylvanians. At one time, Wolf was viewed as a cerebral, if not high-minded, individual. Today, Pennsylvanians see an inflexible governor whose COVID policies are tainted by mismanagement and scandal.
This dysfunction began last March when the Wolf administration issued a memo requiring nursing homes to accept infected patients. This mandate, which sparked a congressional investigation, proved disastrous in Pennsylvania, which has a large senior population. By last June, 4,539 of Pennsylvania’s 6,649 COVID deaths – over 70% – had occurred in nursing homes or senior-care facilities.
Incredibly, Wolf could have prevented this tragic outcome had he simply implemented Pennsylvania’s early protection plan for elderly care – yet the state failed to do so. Instead, he refused to enact priority testing in nursing homes until late summer. In December, the nursing home industry filed suit against the Wolf administration for purposefully withholding more than $150 million intended for financially strapped facilities.
Over the following months, Pennsylvanians endured the governor’s unchecked executive power. Weeks of “slowing the spread” mutated into indefinite business shutdowns, travel restrictions, and needless regulations.
Nathan Benefield is vice president and COO of the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank.