Wolf: Chesco to go Green, June 26

Updated, 1:20 p.m., adds Wolf comments, Levine comments

By Mike McGann, Editor, the Times @mikemcgannpa

One more week to go.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday that Chester County would be among the next counties in the state to move to Green Status on June 26 — meaning pretty much all businesses will be able to reopen — as Pennsylvania slowly reopens from locking down to fight the deadly COVID-19 virus.

Joining Chester are Berks, Bucks, Delaware, Lancaster, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, and Susquehanna — although local officials in Philadelphia will limit some openings until July 3.

“When these 12 counties move on June 26, we will have nearly every county in green,” Gov. Wolf said. “It’s a testament to the many residents and businesses that have sacrificed over the past three months to stay home and adhere to the guidance the state has provided to protect lives and livelihoods. As we begin to reopen, I urge everyone to stay alert and continue to follow social distancing to maintain the momentum of mitigation we have in place.”

Only one county — Lebanon — is expected to remain in Yellow Status for at least two more weeks because of a spike in cases. Lebanon County officials also allowed some businesses to reopen early in defiance of the governor’s orders.

“Lebanon County’s partisan, politically driven decision to ignore public health experts and reopen prematurely is having severe consequences for the health and safety of county residents,” Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Case counts have escalated and the county is not yet ready to be reopened. Lebanon County has hindered its progress by reopening too early. Because of this irresponsible decision, Lebanon County residents are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.”

Green does not mean fully reopen — although Pennsylvania has seen reduced case loads and hospitalizations, more than 20 other states are seeing spikes in cases. Bringing the worry home: at least five Phillies tested positive (and three staff members) for COVID-19 at the team’s Clearwater, Fla. training facility as players work to try to start the 2020 baseball season. Another 32 players and staff members are awaiting test results.

While more will be open in Chester County, there will still be limits.

Telework remains recommended. Business that were operating at 50% occupancy in the Yellow Phase, may increase to 75%. Restaurants and bars may allow indoor seating at 50% capacity. Gatherings of more than 250 are prohibited, still (an increase from 25). Personal care shops — hair care and so on — may reopen, but only at 50% and by appointment only. Indoor recreation — gyms — may reopen at 50% capacity. Casinos, theaters, and shopping malls may reopen at 50% capacity.

Local official applauded the move — but cautioned the battle against COVID-19 is not over.

“Chester County is very ready to move to the next level of re-opening, the green phase,” Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz said in a statement. “Our public health strategies will ensure that businesses and organizations can re-open or expand their operations safely, and that residents can confidently enjoy some of the services that they have been greatly missing.

“But, green does not mean ‘full throttle go’. Just as we have asked throughout the yellow phase, we implore everyone to continue to make every effort to contain the coronavirus. Wear masks, continue social distancing, work from home if you can and continue all hygiene recommendations,” Moskowitz said.

The county is working to expand testing and tracing efforts and announced Friday that no cost testing is now available for all county residents. More information and a link to register can be found here.

Chester County was one of the first counties placed under lockdown restrictions — in mid-March and has progressed through the state’s gradual reopening process.

Eight counties: Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Luzerne, Monroe, Perry, Pike and Schuylkill moved to Green Status Friday.

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