On May 22, 12 more counties, some in the midstate region, will move to the “yellow” phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s three-phase, traffic-light-color-coded plan for resuming operations in the commonwealth, state officials announced Friday afternoon.
Moving out of the red phase next Friday are Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Wayne and York counties. There will be a total of 49 counties in the yellow phase, with the remaining 18 counties in the red phase.
The announcement comes as new daily COVID-19 cases confirmed by the state Health Department have been cut by roughly one half since an April 9 peak of 1,989. The number of new cases confirmed on May 15 was 989, according to Friday’s announcement from Health Secretary Rachel Levine.
“Through our social distancing efforts, we have not only reversed a trajectory of exponential new case growth – we have cut it in half,” Wolf said Friday. “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.”
To determine when a region is ready to reopen and return to work, the state evaluates the rate of coronavirus cases per capita, although Levine has stated that the health department uses other metrics like PPE availability and high-risk factors.
In red-phase counties, only businesses deemed life-sustaining are allowed to resume in-person operations, and travel is restricted to life-sustaining purposes. In the yellow category, companies are compelled by the Wolf administration to use telework when possible, but operations can resume in-person while abiding by CDC-approved building and business safety protocols.
Retail services will be permitted in the yellow phase, although state officials urge businesses to continue to prioritize curbside and delivery options.
While stay-at-home orders will be lifted in favor of other mitigation tactics in the yellow phase, Wolf is still ordering indoor recreation and health fitness areas and entertainment facilities to close, and restaurants and bars will be restricted to carry-out and delivery only.