Bucks County won’t be reopening next week, but some parts of Pennsylvania will begin their gradual return to some normalcy.
On Friday afternoon, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango, and Warren counties would move from the “red” phase to the “yellow” phase of the governor’s tiered reopening plan next Friday at 12:01 a.m.
Below are the three phases:
Bucks County and other Philadelphia-region counties are not expected to move into the yellow phase until later in May. No date was announced Friday.
“The time table schedule is not being set by us, but by the virus,” Wolf said.
Bucks County remains under the governor’s stay-at-home order, but has seen non-emergency surgeries get approved to resume at medical centers’ discretion and the reopening of outdoor recreation businesses and construction.
Over the past few weeks, Bucks County has seen a drop in community spread, but continues to see more than 100 new cases per day and deaths every day. The deaths and new cases are largely connected to long-term care facilities and front line workers.
The counties that will move into the “yellow” phase starting late next week have largely had low case numbers per capita and are prepared to keep up with contact tracing and virus testing efforts.
Wolf warned those counties that large new outbreaks could return them to the red phase. Avoiding large outbreaks is one of the reasons not all businesses will get the greenlight to reopen starting next Friday.
“Every human-to-human contact is a chance for the virus to spread, so more contacts mean a higher likelihood of an outbreak,” Wolf said. “If we see an outbreak occur in one of the communities that has been moved to yellow, we will need to take swift action, and revert to the red category until the new case count falls again. So, Pennsylvanians living in a county that has been moved to the yellow category should continue to strongly consider the impact of their actions.”
The governor said he hopes residents continue mitigation efforts to allow for a “swift reopening” of the state.
“Over the past two months, Pennsylvanians in every corner of our commonwealth have acted collectively to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Wolf said. “We have seen our new case numbers stabilize statewide and while we still have areas where outbreaks are occurring, we also have many areas that have few or no new cases.”
The state is using a Carnegie Mellon University designed Risk-Based Decision Support Tool that will look at the impacts of COVID-19 on counties. The tool uses the reported number of COVID-19 cases per population of a county; ICU and medical/surgical bed capacity; population density; population over age 60; re-opening contact risk, such as the number of workers employed in a currently closed industry sector, the governor’s office said.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said coronavirus testing and contact tracing plans will be factored into decisions. The state will make sure counties have enough testing available for individuals with symptoms and target populations such as those at high risk, health care personnel, and first responders, and the ability to perform robust case investigation and contract tracing.
“We will constantly remain flexible,” Levine said.
The secretary said a number of experts will be working to deal with outbreaks and clusters of COVID-19 in high-risk facilities like nursing homes and meat processing centers.
State officials said determining reopening is a multi-agency undertaking.
The delayed June 2 primary election is still expected to take place no matter what phase counties are in.