COVID-19 Update, May 15: 13 counties move to Yellow, 12 more announced for next week

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

With 13 counties moving to a more open “Yellow” status today in the fight against COVID-19, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that 12 more counties had met state criteria and would move to Yellow next Friday: Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Wayne, and York.

By next week, a total of 49 counties will be in Yellow status, with 18 counties, including Chester, still in a Red Stay at Home and business closure phase, which remains in effect through June 4 — unless a county sees its status upgraded. Chester County continues to see too many new COVID-19 cases to be moved to Yellow status — averaging 45.1 new cases per day over the 14 days, according to County Health, more than twice the metric established by the state.

In Yellow counties, most businesses are allowed to reopen, with an emphasis on telework where feasible and child care can reopen with restrictions. The Stay At Home order is lifted, gatherings of up to 25 permitted and in-person retail is allowed, although curbside pickup remains preferable.

“Through our social distancing efforts, we have not only reversed a trajectory of exponential new case growth – we have cut it in half,” Gov. Wolf said. “And some of the counties that will be shifting into the yellow phase next week eliminated concerns that we had just two weeks ago. So please, keep up your efforts in the fight so we can continue to add counties to the list of those in the yellow phase. Thank you again for your patience and your hard work.”

New case numbers statewide continue to edge up: the state Department of Health (DOH) reported 986 new cases on Thursday — for a statewide total of 60,622 to date. DOH announced 124 new deaths, including 89 from “reconciliation over the last few weeks,” and 35 reported more recently. The state’s death toll now stands at 4,342.

In Chester County, new cases climbed by 52, for a total of 2,102. Five new fatalities were reported, bringing the county total to 218.

Friday, a bill passed both houses of the legislature that would allow real estate and law firms to reopen with appropriate social distancing. One of the bill’s sponsors, State Rep. Joe Ciresi, said he hoped Wolf would sign the bill — Wolf previously vetoed a broader reopening bill that would have allowed many other categories of businesses, including hairdressers, to reopen.

“It is my hope that Governor Wolf will sign this bill into law so that we can recognize housing as a life-sustaining need,” Ciresi said. “I’ve heard from many of my constituents who need this industry to reopen, unable to find a new home after leaving their previous one or in a terrible living situation and in need of a way out. At a time when we are supposed to be isolating ourselves at home, we need to make sure everyone has the right home to do that.”

Friday, Wolf announced the approval of four projects through the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) that will spur economic development, create jobs, and support Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry.

“As we look toward the future after we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we make smart, strategic investments that will help stabilize our economy and support Pennsylvania’s agriculture and business communities,” said Gov. Wolf. “The funding awarded today will lay the groundwork for that future. Our investments today will provide for a more secure tomorrow.”

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