State police: Stay-at-home flouters risk citations

Police around the state of Pennsylvania are cracking down on people violating the stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic.

HARRISBURG — State police have only filed two citations for violating Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order, but troopers will not be shy about enforcing the law if there’s evidence that people are flouting the order, state police Col. Scott Price said Wednesday.

Price said that state police have seen evidence that Pennsylvanians are staying home.

Non-commercial traffic on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is down 76 percent, he said.

“Pennsylvania residents are getting the message,” he said. Price is deputy commissioner of operations for the state police.

Wolf initially handed down a stay-at-home order that only covered southeastern Pennsylvania.

Then, as the coronavirus spread across the state, the governor added counties until last week when he announced that residents across the state must abide by the stay-at-home order.

Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced Tuesday that for the first time, coronavirus has been detected in all 67 of the state’s counties.

As of Tuesday, 14,559 Pennsylvanians have tested positive for coronavirus, and the outbreak has claimed the lives of 240 people.

“Now more than ever, as we continue to see COVID-19 cases and deaths rise in Pennsylvania, we need Pennsylvanians to take action,” Levine said.

“If you must go out, please limit it to as few trips as possible and wear a mask to protect not only yourself, but other people as well.”

State police have no plans to begin stopping vehicles solely to question the occupants about why they are traveling, he said. As a result, troopers have only been questioning people during traffic stops initiated for other reasons or at crashes, he said.

The two stay-at-home order citations announced by state police include an April 4 incident in which a 38-year-old woman, Taylor Eaton led troopers on a vehicle chase after they responded to a complaint that she was in a car parked outside the Hampton Inn on Route 54 in Montour County, near Danville.

Eaton was arrested after troopers forced her to stop in another motel parking lot nearby.

The other incident involved Michael Soder, a 44-year-old man from Norristown, who was involved in vehicle crash on March 29 in Chester County.

When the stay-at-home order only covered part of the state, troopers were giving people the benefit of the doubt if they indicated that they weren’t aware that they were barred from being out, Price said.

“Initially, our effort was designed to educate and inform,” he said.

But now that the order covers the entire state, there’s little room for people to argue that they were unaware that they shouldn’t be out, he said.

CNHI PA State Reporter

CNHI State Reporter John Finnerty covers the Pennsylvania Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Follow him on Twitter @cnhipa. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com.

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