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HARRISBURG — Twelve more Pennsylvania counties will soon move to the “green” phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan.
Wolf on Friday announced that Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Northumberland, Union, Wayne, Wyoming, and York Counties will be allowed to ease most coronavirus restrictions on June 12. They will join 34 counties that are already in the green phase, which lifts most restrictions on businesses and residents.
Together, that represents roughly 40% of Pennsylvania’s population.
“In the green phase, people still have to take precautions like wearing a mask [to] make sure that we don’t have new outbreaks," Wolf said Friday.
The state’s most populous counties — including Philadelphia, its suburbs, and Lehigh — as well as parts of the northeast are now in the “yellow” phase, which lifts the most aggressive mitigation measures but still requires residents to limit the size of gatherings and keeps businesses like gyms and salons closed.
Wolf on Friday thanked health-care and essential workers, local officials, and Pennsylvanians for working to decrease the number of active coronavirus cases. But he warned that while the state is moving in the right direction, Erie County is experiencing what state epidemiologists believe is another outbreak.
“I know and I understand that Erie County residents are eager to move from the ‘yellow’ phase into the ‘green’ phase. Like everybody else, they’re frustrated,” he said. “But with these signs of community spread … we need to contain it before it can move forward.”
In an attempt to be more transparent about how reopening decisions are made, the Department of Health on Friday released a by-county dashboard showing each region’s status. It includes metrics on case counts and positive test rates, hospital capacity, and the date the county began loosening restrictions.
The dashboard also shows whether contact tracing is being done or “is being implemented.” Experts say robust contact tracing is crucial to preventing new outbreaks as areas reopen.
The Department of Health said in a release it’s monitoring the metrics and, if “overall risk remains mitigated” for 14 days, a yellow county will be allowed to transition to green.
In March, Wolf closed all but “life-sustaining” businesses and incrementally put counties under stay-at-home orders to prevent COVID-19 from overwhelming hospitals. He began gradually loosening restrictions in early May.
“Keep in mind, what we were trying to do in the ‘red’ phase was buy time," Wolf said. “We needed to make sure that we didn’t overwhelm our health-care system and … [had time to] make the improvements we needed to make. … We want to make sure that we continue this because there may be a resurgence as we get into the flu season later in the year."
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