Pa. begins process to reopen

Coronavirus

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania has begun its process of reopening, after a statewide shutdown has been in effect since mid-March. Friday, the Wolf Administration is expected to announce which counties can move from a “red” to a “yellow” phase the following Friday, May 8.

Hospitals can now schedule elective surgeries. Some outdoor activities, like golfing and camping, can resume.

Construction workers can get back on the job too. The Governor issued guidance developed by the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania.

At this point, the Department of Health doesn’t know whether the state will be announcing which counties will move from “red” to “yellow” daily or weekly. 

Yellow still has rules, but those that are less intense, with the stay-at-home restriction lifted in favor of aggressive mitigation.  Companies must encourage telework when possible and child care facilities could open, but gyms and entertainment facilities remain closed and restaurants and bars are still limited to carry-out and delivery only. 

In order to reopen, counties must have fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in a 14-day period.

“That metric is just one piece of the puzzle,” said Pa. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine. “In some ways, I might say the metric is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. We’re looking at other different qualitative factors to decide which counties will go from red to yellow.”

Other things being considered in the decision to reopen are if there’s enough testing available for people with symptoms, if high-risk settings have safeguards in place and if officials are doing contact tracing.

Since the beginning of April, the state has provided health care workers and first responders with more than four million N95 masks, 241,000 hospital gowns, 1.3 million surgical masks, 1.3 million pairs of gloves, and nearly 80,000 face shields. 

As the state reopens, the Department of Health is still asking companies to reach out if they could help produce more of any of these tools.

“We need to make sure that our health infrastructure continues to have access to personal protective equipment so our health care providers can protect themselves and protect the public from COVID-19,” said Dr. Levine.

When counties are finally ready to move onto a “green” phase, the only rules are those set by the Department of Health and the CDC. There is no indication of when that may be.

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