Bradford County, Pa. – District Attorney of Bradford County Chad Salsman stated that "no criminal cases will be filed against businesses who choose to remain open or people who do not comply with the Governor's mandates" in a public facebook post today.
"The reason is that they have committed no crime. Crimes are, by definition, violations of laws. The Governor cannot create laws. Laws are created by the legislature, signed by the Governor, and are subject to review by the courts" continued Salsman.
The District Attorney's statement follows the new temporary COVID-19 mitigation measures announced by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf yesterday.
The new measures include no indoor dining, stricter gathering size limits, closure of gyms and fitness centers, and 50% capacity limits to retail stores, and will be in effect from Dec. 12 to Jan. 4.
Related Reading: Gov. Wolf and DOH announce new COVID-19 restrictions
The new measures were announced as rising COVID-19 cases across the state are pushing hospitals close to their critical capacity limits.
"In our hospitals over the last 6 weeks, we've seen a tripling of the COVID positive patients. In this recent wave, we're seeing a spike that is more than double than the spring," said Dr. Jaewon Ryu, president and chief executive officer of Geisinger in yesterday's press conference. "We're operating pretty close to 100% of capacity at this point, which makes it difficult to accommodate care needs outside of COVID-19."
Despite COVID-19 concerns, many individuals believe Gov. Wolf's new mitigation measures will only further hurt small businesses and many business owners have already said they do not plan to follow the new measures.
American Sandwich Company, located in Bradford County in the town of Wyalusing, announced they would not be complying with the Governor's new measures in a Facebook post.
"We take exception with the Governor and declare our restaurant a free zone. We respect the constitution of the United States and declare his “mandates” as unconstitutional. These are my statements as a United States citizen. I will stand by them and I’m willing to defend them and myself by any means necessary," said American Sandwich Company in the post.
While American Sandwich Company need not fear criminal charges from District Attorney Salsman, they could still face other consequences for their defiance.
"I would caution business owners, however, that the state government has the ability to harass and punish citizens in ways that do not involve the criminal justice system. I cannot control that. People must keep that in mind when deciding how to proceed," said Salsman.