Pennsylvania’s road back: Governor Tom Wolf’s plan to reopen the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic
May 8 is the day PA officials have marked as the beginning of the state’s reopening.
Almost two months ago, Pennsylvania registered its first case of the novel coronavirus on March 6. On the same day, Governor Tom Wolf issued a Disaster Declaration to provide the state with more resources to help the fight that still plays out to this day.
Until recently, the only talks of reopening any part of public life in the state with COVID-19 still at its strongest came from the president’s far-fetched hopes and dreams.
When Wolf called for his earlier stay-at-home orders in specific counties to include all of Pennsylvania, it looked as though it was the beginning of a long road.
But after more than half a month in quarantine, Wolf outlined a gradual reopening for the state amid COVID-19.
The plan is a collaboration between the state and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to reopen Pennsylvania in three phases.
Each phase corresponds with a color: red, yellow and green, and represents different levels of restriction on operations.
In the red phase, which the whole state is currently under, only life-sustaining businesses may stay open, schools are closed, stay-at-home orders are in place and restaurants and bars operate with only take-out and delivery orders. In other words, the red phase has been Pennsylvania’s reality since April 1.
The yellow phase represents the first pulling back of restrictions and allows a return to work for everyone providing in-person services. However, telework is still required if feasible and entertainment centers, gyms and schools remain closed. The stay-at-home order is also still in place, but there’s more leeway for traveling to certain stores (like retail) and gathering in groups.
Once in green, the state is effectively back to “normal.” Administratively, the stay-at-home order is lifted and all businesses can return to regular operation, but must follow the state health and CDC guidelines. Psychologically, it’s likely to be far from “normal.”
At his press conference on April 17, Wolf said parts of northwest and north-central PA will be the first to transition out of the red phase and into the yellow on May 8.
Their selection comes as they are the least-affected parts of the commonwealth, but in the event the case number rises again, could go back to red.
For a county to transition phases (from red to yellow or yellow to green), it must see a decline in cases over a two-week timespan and its hospitals must have adequate space for COVID-19 patients.
A definitive date for Philadelphia and its surrounding counties is likely still a ways out and could change more than a couple times in the coming weeks because all represent some of the most affected parts of Pennsylvania.
For example, as of April 22, Philadelphia has more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 and 423 deaths.