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Wolf administration warns businesses defying shutdown order

HARRISBURG (AP) — The administration of Gov. Tom Wolf issued a warning Monday to businesses that choose to open in defiance of the pandemic shutdown, saying they could be jeopardizing their insurance coverage.

With several counties in open rebellion against Wolf’s restrictions on businesses and movement, Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman warned that companies that ignore the shutdown order could be putting themselves at risk of having their claims denied.

She said many policies have provisions that exclude coverage stemming from “illegal acts or conduct,” and could result in denied claims for property damage, protection from liability and other hazards should a business decide to reopen in violation of Wolf’s order.

“It is the duty of every business and resident in Pennsylvania to ensure that they and the public at large are provided with the maximum level of protection afforded by insurance. Any actions that could potentially create coverage gaps are the antitheses of the civil duty required of all residents during these times of emergency,” she said in a written statement.

Republican elected officials in a growing number of counties are planning to move on their own to lift some of Wolf’s restrictions, including the Democrat’s stay-at-home orders and shutdown of businesses deemed “non-life-sustaining.” The counties assert they have enough testing, equipment and hospital capacity to deal with the coronavirus.

“We have heard the pleas of our residents who desire the ability to safely reopen their businesses and safely return to work,” said nearly identical letters sent by state lawmakers, county commissioners and others in Lebanon and Schuylkill counties.

Franklin, Lancaster and Dauphin, among other counties, are also indicating they plan to lift pandemic restrictions on their own beginning this week.

President Donald Trump weighed in Monday, tweeting: “The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails.”

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