NWPA officials demand that Erie Co. go ‘green’ in COVID-19 reopening plan

    A view of the Bicentennial Tower in Erie, Pa. (Photo via Flickr Commons)

    ERIE, Pa.– Erie County officials and local representatives are demanding Erie County move into the green phase of reopening on Friday along with 16 other Pennsylvania counties. 

    Democratic state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Bob Merski and Pat Harkins,  all penned a letter outlining their demands and reasoning to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf earlier this week. 

    “We’re continuing to push the administration to move Erie to green, for the sake of our small businesses and local economy,” Bizzarro said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “Each day that goes by makes it that much harder for these businesses to get back on their feet. To be sure, the health of our residents is priority No. 1, but we must not ignore the health of our local economy, which is hanging in the balance.”

    Since Erie entered the yellow phase of the Wolf’s reopening on May 8, the number of positive cases in the county has more than doubled — going from 114 positive COVID-19 cases reported on May 8 to 254 by the end of the month. The county has seen six confirmed fatalities.

    The letter was co-signed by Republican members of the Legislature, including state Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie; Sen. Michele Brooks, R-Crawford; state Rep. Curt Sonny, R-Erie; and Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford.

    Erie’s Democratic mayor Joe Schember, along with County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper and Corry Mayor David Mitchell added their signatures as well. 

    Last week, an Erie news organization reported that Erie hospital officials believe the county is ready to move on to this final phase of reopening. 

    According to  reporting by GoErie, “The heads of UPMC Hamot and Saint Vincent Hospital both said they can handle any expected surge in COVID-19.”

    “I think [the]  people [of Erie] did what they needed to do” in terms of self-quarantining when potentially exposed and otherwise mitigating the spread of the virus, Harkins told the Capital-Star on Thursday. “We have to keep a close monitoring of what’s going on … but to hear from the medical community, and from everybody involved, that we’re ready to go, we’re taking them at their word I do think it’s time.”

    As of Thursday morning, the Wolf administration had not responded to the letter.

    Correspondent Hannah McDonald covers Erie and northwestern Pennsylvania for the Capital-Star. Follow her on Twitter @HannahMcD0nald.