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Time to put Pennsylvanians to the test

Mandated time off appears to be coming to an end.

Or is it?

On the surface, there appeared to be good news last week when Gov. Tom Wolf announced intentions to start to reopen Pennsylvania.

But don’t get too excited yet.

His plan is methodical.

It would happen in phases based on an area’s actual experience with COVID-19.

At the governor’s protocol, our region — the counties of Northcentral Pennsylvania — will be among the first areas where certain restrictions are lifted, with construction allowed to resume May 1 and other activities permitted starting May 8.

At that point, our region will go from “Red Phase” status to “Yellow Phase” status. But here’s the kicker: Yellow Phase does not appear to be much different than Red Phase.

Like the Red Phase, the Yellow Phase continues restrictions with work and congregating. Instead of stay-at-home orders, it lifts that restriction “in favor of aggressive mitigation.”

The Yellow Phase guidance of the state Department of Health continues with social restrictions — wearing a mask in public and keeping a distance from one another — along with tele-work mandates, limitations already in place for restaurants and continued closure of gyms, spas, theaters and other entertainment, recreation and wellness venues.

It does relax gatherings, allowing fewer than 25 people, and it does allow in-person retail, though it “prefers” curbside pickup and delivery.

So other than being able to visit family or friends and socialize while wearing a mask and maintaining a six-foot distance, that still sounds relatively closed down.

Work places will not be filled with the music of productivity, anymore than what is currently allowed.

Schools will remain closed and once-excited seniors still will be disappointed at how their school years end. Small businesses will continue to suffer, particularly in some areas such as restaurants.

We’re not sure what to expect of retail, but we’re sure we’ll continue our newly formed habit of perpetual handwashing and cleaning for everyone.

People have exercised lots of patience, but it is wearing thin.

While we believe it prudent to proceed with extreme caution, and while we view this as a positive step forward, we also agree with our local lawmakers who argue that the governor’s plan is vague.

Though it promises additional guidance will be forthcoming, it currently lacks information that leads us to believe that some day there will be a certain level of normalcy.

Instead, it doesn’t partly put the fight against this virus in the hands of Pennsylvanians who — one way or the other — will need to change so to confront this invisible killer with caution and intelligence so to to about their lives and livelihoods.

We need more detail … more hope.

It is time to more directly involve and rely on the people of Pennsylvania in this battle.

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