Wolf: Vaccine is strategy to fight COVID-19, not shutdowns

HARRISBURG (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday brushed aside questions about whether he will issue more orders for shutdowns as cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 spread quickly and fill Pennsylvania’s hospitals with unvaccinated patients.

Wolf, speaking during a regularly scheduled appearance in KDKA-AM radio in Pittsburgh, reiterated that the vaccine is his administration’s strategy for fighting the spread of COVID-19.

“The vaccine is our strategy and people need to get the vaccine,” Wolf said.

Wolf’s Department of Health expects new cases to peak in January, followed by a peak in hospitalizations in February and a peak in deaths in late February to early March.

Hospitals and nursing homes hit by severe staffing shortages have been sounding the alarm as largely unvaccinated COVID-19 patients fill hospital beds. Wolf’s administration said it is working to bring health care workers from out-of-state to help.

At the start of the pandemic in spring 2020, Wolf ordered schools to shut down for in-person instruction, issued a broad stay-at-home order, closed businesses deemed “non-life-sustaining” and ordered masks to be worn indoors and in public where social distancing was impossible.

However, he has since seen that authority crimped amid pushback from Republican lawmakers.

Voters handed more authority over emergency disaster declarations to lawmakers and the state Supreme Court ended Wolf’s masking order in schools and child care centers, saying it lacked legal justification after the Republican-controlled Legislature voted in June to terminate Wolf’s COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration.