Gov. Tom Wolf outlines plan to reopen Pa. in phases

Shelly Stallsmith
York Daily Record

Red. Yellow. Green.

Those are the phases that will be used to reopen Pennsylvania in the coming weeks, Governor Tom Wolf said in a news conference Wednesday evening.

He said there is no one tool that will be used to move counties from one phase to the next, but rather officials will look at three things to make that decision. It starts with the number of cases a county has in regard to its population.

"Red, obviously, is the phase we are in right now," Wolf said. "The move to yellow and green will be data-driven, evidence-based decisions. Right now we are looking at counties that have under 50 cases per 100,000 individuals over the course of 14 days to return to work."

They are also going to look at testing sites and the ability to handle increased number of cases should that arise.

Which Pa. counties are likely to reopen first?

Based on the total number of cases, none of the counties in southcentral Pa. will be making the move to yellow.

Based on 2019 estimates, here is population of the counties in the region, followed by the number of cases of COVID-19 as of midnight April 22:

  • Adams County: 102,811 (92)
  • Cumberland County: 251,423 (207)
  • Dauphin County: 277,097 (422)
  • Franklin County: 154,835 (152)
  • Lancaster County: 543,557 (1,326)
  • Lebanon County: 141,314 (535)
  • York County: 448,273 (531)

Wolf didn't specify what 14-day period would be used to determine the criteria.

Based on the last 14 days, the cases as of April 8, Cumberland County (123 cases) would meet the criteria and Adams County (59 cases) would be on the bubble. The other counties would not meet the criteria.

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Wolf said the regions most likely to move into the yellow phase first will be in northcentral and northwest parts of the state.

Cameron and Sullivan counties lead the state with just one case and no deaths in either county. Of the state's 67 counties, 20 have less than 20 cases since the first person tested positive nearly seven weeks ago.

Pa. construction to resume; businesses will reopen gradually

"As I said before, we are not going to be flipping a switch and going from closed to open," Wolf said. "Ultimately, the virus is going to determine the timeline, not us." Wolf said the move to yellow would lift stay-at-home restrictions in favor of aggressive mitigation and would open in-person retail although curbside and delivery is preferable.

Indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities and all entertainment would remain closed. Restaurants and bars would be limited to carryout and delivery.

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Businesses that can operate using telework would have to do so and congregate care and prison restrictions would remain.

Wolf also announced that he will reopen construction in the state beginning on May 1, moved up from May 8.

Criteria has not been determined for moving to the green phase, which would lift the stay-at-home and business closure orders while follow the current CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines.

Date to reopen Pa. could change

Wolf was quick to point out that target dates could change if the data changes.

And counties could be moved back a phase if conditions worsen.

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"We are trying to be as safe as we can," Wolf said. "We are trying to be as careful and prudent as possible. May 8 is the earliest we feel we can lift the order, even in the areas that seem to have few cases."

He said that the challenge is that Pennsylvania is not the same across the state. As the numbers show, the concentration of cases lies in the northeast and southeast.

"Just as we closed down in a phased way, we will reopen in a phased way," Wolf said.

Shelly Stallsmith is a trends reporter for the York Daily Record. She can be reached at or followed on Twitter at @ShelStallsmith.