HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A large auto show in central Pennsylvania poses a risk to the public due to coronavirus concerns and should be shut down, the state Health Department argued in an emergency court filing made Wednesday.
The agency told Commonwealth Court in a request for an injunction that the Spring Carlisle auto show did not respond to a letter that directed it to comply with the 250-person limit on gatherings that is currently imposed on Cumberland County.
Attendees began streaming into the fairgrounds Wednesday, the first day of the event that is scheduled to run through Saturday.
Business closures and social distancing have saved lives, lawyers for the Health Department said.
“When individuals choose to ignore those safeguards — such as by holding an event anticipating 100,000 attendees — they put the lives of Pennsylvanians at risk and threaten to reverse the significant progress that has been made to resolve this crisis. That dangerous conduct must be stopped before it can occur,” they told the court.
The defendant, Carlisle Productions, Inc., also known as Carlisle Events, has held the spring auto show at the Carlisle Fairgrounds since 1976. It typically draws about 100,000 people, although organizers say they expect a smaller crowd for this year’s event.
Carlisle Events spokesman Mike Garland said the organization has put in place safety measures in response to the pandemic. He had no comment on the injunction request.
“We were made aware of it very early this morning,” Garland said. “At this point we would have no additional comment as we’re still in conference with counsel.”
The state’s legal filing included the letter sent to the organization on Tuesday by Dr. Rachel Levine, the state health secretary. It says Carlisle Events did not respond, as requested, by late Tuesday.
Levine’s said in the letter that she was aware that the events are generally held outside, although there are buildings with vendors and exhibits.
“However, the large number of persons who typically attend, the wide variety of locations from which they travel, and the fact that they will congregate in hotels and restaurants throughout the area creates a strong potential for the spread of infection,” Levine wrote.
Levine’s letter also warned of legal liability if people at the show become infected, as well as criminal and civil penalties under the state’s Disease Prevention and Control Law.
In other COVID-19 developments in Pennsylvania:
Another 43 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, bringing the total so far to 6,319, the Health Department reported Wednesday.
The agency said there were also 335 additional positive cases, and nearly 80,000 since the pandemic broke out earlier this year.
Pennsylvania has now gone four straight days with fewer than 400 new cases, the longest such streak since cases began to grow quickly in late March.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state’s confirmed case count because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.