17 Pa. counties to transition to green, eight more turn yellow next week, Wolf says

Gov. Tom Wolf addresses the state during an online news conference on Monday, 5/12/20 (screen capture)

Pennsylvania’s progress toward opening up moved forward Friday afternoon, with Gov. Tom Wolf moving 17 Pennsylvania counties into the green phase of reopening, and eight more moving into the yellow phase on May 29.

Those green phase counties are: Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren. The yellow phase counties are: Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike and Schuylkill counties. 

That leaves ten of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties – Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton, Montgomery and Philadelphia – in the red.  They are expected to move into the yellow phase on June 5.

But even with what must be welcome news for the impacted counties, Wolf still had a reminder: 

“Whether you’re in yellow, red or green, we still need to do everything we can to defeat this virus,” Wolf said.

Guidance from the CDC and the Department of Health must still be followed, Wolf said. 

The green phase still includes some restrictions. Building capacities in places like restaurants will be limited. 

Gyms and restaurants, for example, will be at 50 percent capacity. Visitations in certain areas like nursing homes and prisons can be restricted as well. There still won’t be large events like concerts and public sporting events.

Friday’s announcement comes more than two months after the state began its lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With another 866 cases announced Friday, the state has a total of 66,258 confirmed cases. The number of new daily cases has dropped noticeably since 1,295 were announced on May 10. 

From April 21 to May 10, a span of 19 days, the state topped 1,000 new cases 15 times. Inthe eleven days since, it hasn’t had a single day with 1,000 cases.

On Friday, Wolf’s office announced a few other COVID-19-related policies.

The office announced summer camps and programs would be able to operate under department of health guidelines.

Wolf was pressed about why his office has changed policies while dealing with the pandemic. The state changed its policies based on the more it learned about the virus.

Since then, the state hasn’t had a single day with 1,000 new cases. Contrast that with the number of new cases from April 21 to May 10, when more than new cases 1,000 cases 

“We know more now than we did two months ago, or three weeks ago,” he said. “We can do things, we know things, we have models in place, we have worked with other states, other governors, other health care professionals. There has been a single-minded focus on keeping people safe … That has not changed and it won’t change.”

Wolf was asked about comments President Donald Trump made Friday, pressuring states to open up churches. 

“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics essential, but have left out churches,” Trump said. “That’s not right.”

Pennsylvania, as Wolf pointed out, closed its liquor stores.

“We never closed religious organizations,” Wolf said, pointing out that religious leaders might close on their own for the safety of their members.

With the Memorial Day weekend here, the governor was asked about beaches in Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware opening up this weekend.

“Personally, I’m not going to the beach,” he said. “I’m staying home in York County.”