Trying to understand the latest weird communist coronavirus directive from a state governor

Call me misinformed, but I was under the impression that when it comes to law, rules, and regulations, it all comes down to wording, interpretation, and enforcement.  Recently, a flurry of state and federal directives have been issued due to the so called "novel coronavirus pandemic."

Pennsylvania has been aggressive in closing what it considers "non-essential businesses." It also issued stay-at-home orders for most of its citizens.  Even the electronic signs on the roadways announce, "Stay home."  It may require litigation to determine the federal or state constitutionality of such orders.  A.G. Bill Barr recently suggested there may be federal constitutional issues with some of these orders due to their sweeping nature and conflict with civil liberties.

The specific orders issued by Rachel Levine, M.D., secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Health, were based on COVID-19 being considered a threat to the public health.  Authority was given to the secretary relating but not limited to closure, isolation, and quarantine.

Rationally, one would think this order is limited to individual persons or businesses, not the entire state's populace and economic engine, since Pennsylvania has large mostly peripherally located urban areas and a mostly rural center.

Recently, I learned from a coworker that an updated order was issued regarding what's called the "in person operations of businesses."  So I thought, that's interesting, but let me read the actual order, since it sounded like more government overreach.  If only it ended there.

Effective April 15, the secretary's order declared in part, "[R]equire all customers to wear masks while on premises, and deny entry to individuals not wearing masks[.] … [H]owever, Individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition ... may enter the premises and are not required to provide documentation of such medical condition."

Radio broadcasts stated, without exceptions offered, that masks must be worn to enter all businesses.  Businesses posted signs stating that masks were required for entry, but also without noting exceptions.  Reading the words used in the order made sense though there seemed to be an internal contradiction and enforcement by the business could bring up a few issues.  So I contacted the PA attorney general's office for clarification, first by fax and then by email.

What I asked was fairly basic.  Did his office vet the order prior to its release?  I figured that that should be a standard procedure since if there's a potential legal issue, fixing it before release may limit litigation after, the latter requiring state attorney involvement and probably much more work.

I asked for clarification of the order since I could be barred from entering a business without wearing the mask that the order instructs to wear, even though I didn't have to wear it if I couldn't, for a medical reason that I didn't have to disclose to anyone.

I asked, if I was refused entry, whether I should have the business contact their corporate attorney so I could read the order and have him advise me as to whether there was a rationale for disallowing my entry other than based on the fact that I wasn't wearing the mask I didn't need to if I couldn't, while not needing to disclose the medical reason.

I asked what would happen if the police were called if I refused to leave the business because I wasn't wearing the mask I didn't need to wear because of medical reasons I didn't need to disclose.  Would showing them what the order actually says be sufficient to enter the business or continue shopping?  I wondered whether the business would say I was disrupting its business by refusal to wear the mask that I didn't need to wear because I couldn't.

Finally, I asked whether there is business or state liability if entry to the store is denied and the individual happens to be black.  I pointed out that this could be a civil rights violation.  Although asked hypothetically, I figured that's where vetting comes in.

In response to my enquiry, this is what I have received to date: crickets, nada, nothing.  Perhaps I should have used "people of color" in that last question.

So presently I let my wife do the shopping, which she usually does anyway.  And I do what I usually do, which is sit in the car and read. But it would be nice to know what the order means, why doublespeak is present, and why the A.G. isn't more involved in upholding its citizens' rights.

Once I figure all that out, perhaps I'll figure out why a virus that doesn't really affect children caused formal education to cease in Pennsylvania.  Homeschooling, though, is booming, and it's where these kids may actually learn about their rights and the abridgement of them.  Perhaps we'll have a 10-year-old plaintiff for Bill Barr to represent.  Better yet, one of color.

Image: Tom Hilton via Flickr.

Call me misinformed, but I was under the impression that when it comes to law, rules, and regulations, it all comes down to wording, interpretation, and enforcement.  Recently, a flurry of state and federal directives have been issued due to the so called "novel coronavirus pandemic."

Pennsylvania has been aggressive in closing what it considers "non-essential businesses." It also issued stay-at-home orders for most of its citizens.  Even the electronic signs on the roadways announce, "Stay home."  It may require litigation to determine the federal or state constitutionality of such orders.  A.G. Bill Barr recently suggested there may be federal constitutional issues with some of these orders due to their sweeping nature and conflict with civil liberties.

The specific orders issued by Rachel Levine, M.D., secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Health, were based on COVID-19 being considered a threat to the public health.  Authority was given to the secretary relating but not limited to closure, isolation, and quarantine.

Rationally, one would think this order is limited to individual persons or businesses, not the entire state's populace and economic engine, since Pennsylvania has large mostly peripherally located urban areas and a mostly rural center.

Recently, I learned from a coworker that an updated order was issued regarding what's called the "in person operations of businesses."  So I thought, that's interesting, but let me read the actual order, since it sounded like more government overreach.  If only it ended there.

Effective April 15, the secretary's order declared in part, "[R]equire all customers to wear masks while on premises, and deny entry to individuals not wearing masks[.] … [H]owever, Individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition ... may enter the premises and are not required to provide documentation of such medical condition."

Radio broadcasts stated, without exceptions offered, that masks must be worn to enter all businesses.  Businesses posted signs stating that masks were required for entry, but also without noting exceptions.  Reading the words used in the order made sense though there seemed to be an internal contradiction and enforcement by the business could bring up a few issues.  So I contacted the PA attorney general's office for clarification, first by fax and then by email.

What I asked was fairly basic.  Did his office vet the order prior to its release?  I figured that that should be a standard procedure since if there's a potential legal issue, fixing it before release may limit litigation after, the latter requiring state attorney involvement and probably much more work.

I asked for clarification of the order since I could be barred from entering a business without wearing the mask that the order instructs to wear, even though I didn't have to wear it if I couldn't, for a medical reason that I didn't have to disclose to anyone.

I asked, if I was refused entry, whether I should have the business contact their corporate attorney so I could read the order and have him advise me as to whether there was a rationale for disallowing my entry other than based on the fact that I wasn't wearing the mask I didn't need to if I couldn't, while not needing to disclose the medical reason.

I asked what would happen if the police were called if I refused to leave the business because I wasn't wearing the mask I didn't need to wear because of medical reasons I didn't need to disclose.  Would showing them what the order actually says be sufficient to enter the business or continue shopping?  I wondered whether the business would say I was disrupting its business by refusal to wear the mask that I didn't need to wear because I couldn't.

Finally, I asked whether there is business or state liability if entry to the store is denied and the individual happens to be black.  I pointed out that this could be a civil rights violation.  Although asked hypothetically, I figured that's where vetting comes in.

In response to my enquiry, this is what I have received to date: crickets, nada, nothing.  Perhaps I should have used "people of color" in that last question.

So presently I let my wife do the shopping, which she usually does anyway.  And I do what I usually do, which is sit in the car and read. But it would be nice to know what the order means, why doublespeak is present, and why the A.G. isn't more involved in upholding its citizens' rights.

Once I figure all that out, perhaps I'll figure out why a virus that doesn't really affect children caused formal education to cease in Pennsylvania.  Homeschooling, though, is booming, and it's where these kids may actually learn about their rights and the abridgement of them.  Perhaps we'll have a 10-year-old plaintiff for Bill Barr to represent.  Better yet, one of color.

Image: Tom Hilton via Flickr.