HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) – On May 29, Governor Tom Wolf announced 16 additional counties able to move to the ‘green’ phase of reopening on June 5.
These counties are: Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clinton, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Lycoming, Mercer, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland.
Also on June 5, the entirety of the state’s 67 counties will be in a phase of reopening. With the state’s stay-at-home order expiring, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia counties will transition into the ‘yellow’ phase on that date.
The announcement came as 17 of the state’s saw their first day in the ‘green’ phase. These counties included: Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.
During the ‘green’ phases, all businesses may reopen but some restrictions are still in place, including reduced capacities inside of restaurants and bars as well as the encouragement of telework when possible. A new order was released for the counties moving into the last phase of the reopening plan that includes extended guidance such as the prohibition of gatherings of more than 250 people.
“If we take the simple steps of wearing a mask, staying home when sick, and implementing social distancing tactics, we can help eliminate the spread of COVID-19 and make a huge contribution to getting our commonwealth back on track,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement.
In addition, outdoor dining is now allowed to restart in counties in the ‘yellow’ phase beginning June 5. Previously, restaurants had to operate on a takeout only basis. Summer camp guidance was also released.
The plan for reopening the commonwealth is categorized into three phases: red, yellow and green. These phases will be based on conditions in a county or region using metrics from the Department of Health and a data tool developed by Carnegie Mellon University.
As of May 29, 80% of the counties across the state have been able to transition into the ‘yellow’ phase.
On May 29, Governor Tom Wolf announced the 16 counties to go into the ‘green’ phase.
Northeastern and Central Pennsylvanian counties have been gradually added to the reopening plan. Bradford, Sullivan and Snyder Counties were among the first wave of counties allowed to transition into the ‘green’ phase beginning May 29. The remainder of the region will be transitioning into at least the yellow phase starting June 5.
What the phases mean
Areas in the red phase will remain under stay-at-home and social distancing restrictions. Travel is only allowed for life-sustaining reasons, schools and most child care facilities remain closed for in-person instruction, only life-sustaining businesses may open for customers, and restaurants are carry-out or delivery only.
The yellow phase lifts stay at home restrictions and allows for in-person retail. However indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities such as gyms and spas as well as all entertainment businesses such as casinos and theaters will remain closed. Restaurants and bars must also operate with take-out and delivery only.
The green phase lifts aggressive mitigation orders, but only after a region has maintained an average of less than 50 COVID-19 patients per 100,000 people over a two-week period. Everyone living in a region under the green phase must still follow CDC and PA Department of Health guidelines. All businesses must also follow CDC and PA Department of Health guidelines.
How the phases are determined
In order to be considered by the state to be allowed to re-open, a county must have confirmed fewer than 50 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents over the course of 14 days. Below is a map of the counties that have achieved this threshold (highlighted in lighter blue).
Achieving the threshold by itself is not enough to determine the eligibility of a county to reopen. Other metrics, including hospital capacity are also taken into consideration.
“An assessment will determine if the target goal has been met. The administration will work closely with county and local governments to enable the communities to reopen and transition back to work,” Maggi Mumma, a spokesperson with the PA Department of Health Press Office told Eyewitness News in a written statement. “The target data goal is not the only metric to be met before reopening a region.”
Other metrics include
- The county having enough testing available for individuals with symptoms and target populations such as those at high risk, health care personnel and first responders.
- Robust case investigation and contact tracing infrastructure in place to facilitate early identification of cluster outbreaks and to issue proper isolation and quarantine orders.
- Identification of an area’s high-risk settings including correctional institutions, personal care homes, skilled nursing facilities and other congregate care settings, and assurance that facilities have adequate safeguards in place such as staff training, employee screening, visitor procedures and screening and adequate supplies of PPE to support continued operations.