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Changing Colors: Residents no longer need to ‘Stay at Home’ on May 8

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf outlined his plans to lift some coronavirus restrictions in portions of the Keystone State.

The governor has announced 24 counties – more than one-third of Pennsylvania’s counties – will be lifted from the stay-at-home order May 8.

These are the counties: 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.

“We Pennsylvanians have flattened the curve,” Wolf said Friday afternoon.

“We have many areas that are having few or no new cases,” Wolf added.

Wolf said the governor is looking at other counties to move into the yellow zone, including southwestern Pennsylvania and some in southcentral Pennsylvania. He didn’t specify a date as to when a decision would be made on the next round of counties.

The governor said he hasn’t talked about the frequency of updating counties into the yellow phase.

Wolf and state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine spelled out the plan in a news conference.

Allegheny County didn’t move into the yellow phase due to the population density of the city of Pittsburgh, Levine said. She said it isn’t prudent to ease restrictions yet in Allegheny County.

LIFE IN YELLOW COUNTIES

Last month, the governor unveiled a three-stage plan for reopening the state – with red, yellow and green stages – starting May 8. With a statewide stay-at-home order in place, everyone is in the red zone now, but some places will move into the less-restrictive yellow level in a week.

Even in yellow counties, outbreaks remain possible, Wolf said. If cases spike, those counties could move back into the red zone, Wolf said. So Wolf said counties would have incentive to maintain social distancing and other steps to curb the spread of the virus.

The governor was asked what metrics would be used to move counties back into the red zone. He said much of the criteria used in easing restrictions would be the benchmarks to determine if counties need to return to the red zone.

“We want to keep people safe,” Wolf said.

“If the number of cases go back up into the critical category, we’ll say, ‘You’re going to have to go back to the red category and try it again,'” Wolf said.

In the yellow counties, casinos, movie theaters and gyms would remain closed. Levine said drive-in movie theaters could operate.

Wolf said the reopened counties would still require “reengineered business models.” Businesses in the yellow counties are still encouraged to allow employees to work remotely, Wolf said. Restaurants and bars are still limited to carryout or delivery services. Wolf said other retailers would be encouraged to offer curbside pickup.

“We’re asking everyone to limit social gatherings,” Wolf said.

In the yellow counties, large gatherings of more than 25 are still prohibited under the Wolf administration’s plans.

Wolf said churches can have services but churches are taking steps to protect their congregations.

When asked, Levine said “organized sports are not going to be allowed in the yellow phase.”

“It would not be an exercise in caution to let team sports play,” Levine said.

Wolf said employers would have “every incentive to be very responsible” to protect employees. If telecommuting isn’t an option, businesses will need to take necessary steps to keep workers safe. Otherwise, Wolf said, workers aren’t going to show up.

“This is going to be enforced by the reality of the virus,” Wolf said.

Government offices can reopen in the yellow counties, Wolf said. But he’s encouraging local governments to allow employees to work remotely and continue social distancing measures.

“If we don’t, we will not be able to stay healthy,” Wolf said.

Hair salons, barber shops and massage parlors are still closed in the yellow counties.

“It’s impossible to practice social distancing when you’re performing those functions,” Levine said.

When asked, Wolf said he would not sign a waiver allowing all garden centers to open. Some garden centers have said they’re frustrated they were denied waivers when other garden centers have been allowed to reopen. With planting season getting underway, some garden centers said they’re losing a lot of revenue.

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