Pocono Record Town Hall: Is it time for more COVID restrictions in Pennsylvania?

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Things have changed over the past few weeks. The Omicron variant has pushed our daily case counts in Monroe County and the Poconos to new heights, shattering records and dampening the recent holiday for some.

The data tells us this: vaccinated or not, you can still catch COVID-19. This is largely undisputed. However, we also know that vaccines and booster shots greatly improve the chances of developing only mild symptoms of COVID. Long story short: It's better to have some protection, than none at all.

COVID cases in Monroe County are at an all-time high, but there are fewer mitigations required by the Pennsylvania government now when compared to the start of the pandemic.

Related: Gov. Tom Wolf talks COVID strategy as omicron spreads, 2022 agenda and plans after office

This week's Town Hall prompt, should you choose to accept it: Is it time for Governor Tom Wolf to step in and reimpose COVID-19 mitigation mandates? Why or why not?

In December, Wolf told our Capital Bureau that he was focusing on vaccinations against the virus as his short-term plan. Wolf said he didn't foresee the return of any mask mandates to the keystone state.

"The vaccines are our strategy, and they're working," Wolf said.

In the past, Wolf has declared a state of emergency in Pennsylvania ahead of declaring COVID-19 mitigation measures such as business closures and mask mandates. His most recent mask mandate in Pennsylvania schools was vacated by the state supreme court in December.

Pennsylvanians chose to curb Wolf's emergency powers during the May, 2021 primary referendum. The vote will limit emergency declarations to 21 days and require a majority vote by the legislature to extend them. That vote also empowers state lawmakers to remove the governor's disaster declarations with a two-thirds vote.

The Legislature would not have authority to end Department of Health powers, which are protected under the Disease Prevention Act.

Other than that, Wolf still retains the power to declare an emergency, and to impose things like mask mandates when he sees fit.

With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the commonwealth, and local hospitals being pushed closer and closer to capacity limits, Wolf has yet to follow the lead of other states in the region in declaring any sort of COVID-related state of emergency or mitigation strategy.

Participants should email submissions to be included in our next roundup, between 200 and 400 words, to Managing Editor Ashley Fontones at afontones@poconorecord.com. Please put "Town Hall" in the subject line. Pocono Record Town Halls are the new name for our Group Editorials project.

Submissions get an edit for grammar and AP style. The deadline to submit for our next Town Hall is noon on Thursday, Jan. 20.

If you aren't into sharing your thoughts, share your vote in this week's Town Hall poll. Vote online at poll.fm/11016218, or right here at PoconoRecord.com.

This article originally appeared on Pocono Record: In light of Omicron in the Poconos, is it time for COVID restrictions?

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