PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Gov. Tom Wolf is easing some pandemic restrictions in Philadelphia and the heavily populated suburbs on June 5, while lifting them almost entirely in 17 rural counties next week.
Pennsylvania is continuing to emerge from a shutdown imposed nearly two months ago to help slow the spread of the new virus.
Wolf is accelerating his reopening plan even though more than 20 Pennsylvania counties remain above the state’s target for new infections that were supposed to qualify them for an easing of pandemic restrictions. Eight counties are more than three times over.
On Friday May 29, Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren Counties will move to the Green Phase of reopening.
On that same day, Dauphin, Franklin, Huntington, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike and Schuylkill Counties will move into the Yellow Phase of reopening.
Local elected officials, Republican and Democrats alike, have been pressing for shutdown relief amid skyrocketing unemployment.
You can read the full release from the Governor's office below:
Furthering his plan for reopening Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf today announced eight additional counties will move to yellow and 17 to green, effective at 12:01 a.m., May 29. All remaining counties in red are expected to move to yellow by June 5 at 12:01 a.m.
The counties moving to yellow on May 29 include Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, and Schuylkill.
The 17 counties moving to green, also on May 29, include Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.
Counties that remain in red on May 29 and are expected to move to yellow by June 5 include Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton, Montgomery, and Philadelphia.
“We know not only that we succeeded in slowing case growth, but that our actions, our collective decisions to stay at home and avoid social contact – we know that saved lives,” Gov. Wolf said. “My stay-at-home order did exactly what it was intended to do: It saved lives and it bought us valuable time.”
Gov. Wolf referred to a study by Drexel University that indicates that in Philadelphia alone, 60 days of staying at home resulted in more than 7,000 lives saved and prevented more than 68,000 people from needing hospitalization.
In deciding which counties to move to yellow, the state used risk-based metrics from Carnegie Mellon University combined with contact tracing and testing capability and a sustained reduction in COVID-19 hospitalizations. While the 50 new cases per 100,000 population was considered, it did not weigh any more heavily than other factors.
Over the past two weeks:
- The state has seen sustained reductions in hospitalizations. From May 8 when the first counties moved to yellow to yesterday, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized dropped by nearly one thousand – from 2,618 to 1,667.
- The number of COVID patients on ventilators shrank by about a third, from 505 to 347.
- New cases continue to decline: From May 8 to May 15, the state added 6,384 cases and from May 15 to 21, added 4,770.
- The current COVID-19 incidence rate in the state is 83.4 cases per 100,000 people. Two weeks ago, it was 113.6 per 100,000. Most other states are seeing their new case rate continue to increase or remain flat. Pennsylvania is one of just 19 states with new case-rate declines.
Counties that have been in the yellow phase for the requisite 14 days have been closely monitored for the risk associated with transitioning to the green phase.
In the green phase, we will continue to take precautions, including reducing building capacity, encouraging teleworking, limiting visitation in certain high-risk environments, and preventing large entertainment gatherings.
The guidelines for moving to green are available here, and include specifics for employers, large events, and social gatherings.
“We continue to increase testing every day and are continuing to build our contact tracing capacity, as well,” Gov. Wolf said. “We are able to do these things, to be successful, to reopen in this manner because of the Pennsylvanians who have made tremendous sacrifices since the virus emerged in our state,” Gov Wolf said. “Thank you.
“I want to remember and honor all of those who we lost and give solace to their family and loved ones. The last two months have been trying and they have tested each of us, and I want to thank and acknowledge all the people of our commonwealth who have been called upon to upend their lives to keep their neighbors, friends and family safe.”