Ward Law LLC is dedicated to keeping our clients informed about all things COVID-19 related. Our business is to ensure that you have all the information you need to keep your business going. In that regard, please read below for an update on plans to reopen the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Most states across the nation that have issued COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have begun to take steps toward reopening their economies and easing restrictions. The steps that have been taken vary widely with respect to procedures, stages, dates, regional application, and protective measures/restrictions. One of the most disparate variables from state-to-state is the timing of reopening. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has approached reopening of the state more cautiously than many across the nation.
When announcements about reopening began to emerge, Gov. Wolf outlined a staged reopening that involved a three-phase color coding. Counties color coded “red” are in the most restrictive phase, with all restrictions and closings implemented by the governor’s full stay at home order. When a county meets certain criteria (including having an average of fewer than 50 new confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period, an adequate supply of testing and hospital resources, and the ability to perform contact tracing, among other things), they move into the “yellow” phase of reopening. Finally, counties will ultimately move to the least restrictive reopening phase of “green,” although the administration is yet to announce what criteria must be met before moving from yellow to green.
Last week, 24 counties in northwestern and north-central Pennsylvania became the first to move into the yellow phase. 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 were those included in this phase. The eased restrictions in these counties include opening childcare with worker and building safety orders, stay at home restrictions lifted in favor of aggressive mitigation, and in-person retail allowed (curbside and delivery preferred). Telework must continue where feasible, schools remain closed for in-person instruction, large gatherings are prohibited, and indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities, and all entertainment remain closed.
On Friday May 15th, 13 additional counties move from red to yellow. Those counties are Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland. The 30 remaining counties within the state remain in the red stage, under a stay at home order that the governor extended to June 4th, and no counties are being considered for transition from yellow to green at this point. As noted earlier, the governor has not even yet specified what criteria must be met to qualify for the green phase.
Interestingly, there are several counties that have, without receiving clearance, unilaterally declared that they are considering themselves to be in the yellow phase effective May 15. Republican majorities in Dauphin and Lebanon counties made this announcement recently, and commissioners in Cumberland, Berks, Franklin and Schuylkill counties have followed suit. In response, Governor Wolf issue a strong rebuke and indicated that counties that jump ahead prematurely will risk losing their federal funding, while businesses who defy restrictions risk loving their license to operate. Earlier on Thursday, some of those counties have backed off their plans to move forward with reopening.
For any questions about PA’s reopening plans, please email the Ward Law helpline any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.