Republican Commissioner Bill Ames Who Resisted Mandates Dies With COVID Aged 81

A Republican Pennsylvania county official has died due to complications related to COVID-19, according to local media.

William "Bill" Ames, a commissioner for Lebanon county, passed away at the age of 81 on Tuesday, December 28, after being hospitalized with COVID, according to news outlet LebTown. He announced that he had caught the virus on Thursday, December 16.

Ames, who had served his county since 2012, had at times taken a stance against COVID restrictions there and pushed successfully for a reopening of businesses earlier than the rest of the state back in 2020.

The push to move Lebanon into the "yellow phase" of its pandemic restrictions and out of tougher restrictions took place in the spring of 2020, with a resolution signed in May.

The resolution, signed by Ames as well as Commissioner Chairman Robert Phillips, both Republicans, stated that the commissioners emphathized with families who wanted to return to work and "minimize the economic devastation on their finances."

That effort led to state governor Tom Wolf withholding nearly $13 million in funding through the federal CARES Act for Lebanon since it loosened restrictions ahead of state guidelines. At the time, Ames called that move "very, very sad," according to Lebanon Daily News.

Ames later did not sign a settlement for the county to receive the funding, partly because $2.8 million had to be allocated to a local mask campaign, according to LebTown. He told the news outlet that "Lebanon County's citizens are more than capable of figuring out for themselves whether masks are useful or not."

But Ames also said in 2020 that he was encouraging everyone who went to vote in the June primary elections to wear a face mask.

Local leaders have expressed sadness following Ames' passing this month.

"Bill gave everything thought and consideration, and had the wisdom and courage to change his mind if warranted," chief clerk and county administrator Jamie Wolgemuth told LebTown.

And Jo Ellen Litz, another commissioner of Lebanon County, described Ames as "a straight shooter," noting that "you never had to guess where he stood."

As of Wednesday, December 29, funeral arrangements were still being made, LebTown reported. It is unclear whether or not Ames was vaccinated against the disease at the time of his passing.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Wednesday reported a new high in terms of single-day COVID cases during the pandemic according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, with 17,520 additional cases.

Cases are on the up across the U.S., with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting a seven-day moving average of 277,241 new cases on December 28.

Pennsylvania flag
A stock photo shows the flag and coats of arms of Pennsylvania. Bill Ames was a commissioner for Lebanon, a county in the state. Ahmed Zaggoudi/Getty