24 PA Counties To Begin Reopening May 8

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24 PA Counties To Begin Reopening May 8

May 24, 2020 | News | No Comments

HARRISBURG, PA — Gov. Tom Wolf has announced that 24 counties will begin to reopen May 8 after more than a month of a statewide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The reopening is part of a three-phase plan announced last week by Wolf that designates each county as red, yellow or green. The color designation determines what mitigation measures previously set to stop the spread of the virus can be lifted, if any.

The counties that will move from red to yellow May 8 are: Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango and Warren.

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To determine each region’s eligibility to reopen, officials are assessing target goals related to infection rates, testing capabilities, hospital capacity and other factors. MORE: Here Are The Metrics That Will Guide PA’s Reopening

These counties were deemed ready to move to the yellow phase because of low per-capita case counts, the ability to conduct contact tracing and testing, and appropriate population density to contain community spread, the governor said.

The yellow phase eases some of the mitigation measures to slow the spread of the virus, which has so far infected 46,971 Pennsylvanians. The state’s death toll stands at 2,354 as of Friday.

In the yellow phase, stay-at-home orders will be lifted, but large gatherings of 25 or more people will be prohibited. Retail stores may reopen but with curbside and delivery the preferred method of operation. Gyms, spas and entertainment venues such as theaters and casinos will remain closed in the yellow phase. Restaurants will still be limited to carryout or delivery.

Child care centers will reopen in the yellow phase with safety orders, and telework must continue whenever possible. Organized team sports are not permitted in the yellow phase.

Congregate care and prison restrictions will remain in place, and schools will remain closed for in-person instruction. All reopened businesses must follow guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health for social distancing and cleaning.

Pennsylvanians living in a county under a yellow designation should continue to consider how their actions could contribute to the spreading of the disease, Wolf said. “Every human-to-human contact is a chance for the virus to spread. The more contact, the higher the chance of an outbreak,” he said.

“Pennsylvanians living in a county moving to the yellow phase should continue to do things like social distancing,” he said. “Your actions will guide our future.”

Wolf said his administration is already looking at other counties to assess if they can move from red to yellow. Specific timelines for each phase have not been provided and will likely vary by region.

Officials have already stated there is no timeline for reopening the Philadelphia region, which will be among the last to have the mitigation measures lifted.

Health Secretary Rachel Levine, speaking Friday’s news conference, explained the state’s efforts on contact tracing and testing — both critical components to a safe reopening.

Contact tracers will be used to determine who an infected person may have come into contact with while ill. Those with close contact of an infected person will be notified they’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. The infected person’s name is not released by the contact tracer for privacy issues.

Those close contacts will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

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The state is using its current contact tracing infrastructure in counties that are reopening first. Additional resources will be established as more counties reopen, Levine said.

Increased testing capacity is also a critical aspect of a successful reopening, Levine said.

Testing must be accessible and available for all Pennsylvanians who are symptomatic, she said. The state plans to make testing widely available by partnering with existing facilities, such as retail pharmacies.

Testing resources will be targeted where they are most in need, such as at long-term care facilities like nursing homes, Levine said. She added the state will continue to build its network of community-based testing sites, such as the one that recently opened in Luzerne County.

To secure the equipment and materials to do increased testing, the state Health Department is working closely with the Department of Community and Economic Development, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and federal partners, she said.

All businesses in the state that are not deemed to be life-sustaining have been closed since March 19 in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. On March 23, stay-at-home orders were announced for Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.

Through the end of March, people in more than 25 counties were told to stay at home, before a statewide order was announced on April 1.

Also Friday, construction workers across the state returned to work and golf courses reopened; both have health guidelines and safety measures in place.

>>>Full coverage of coronavirus in Pennsylvania

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