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'Partisan, politically driven decision to ignore public health experts': Lebanon will be only county not in green June 26

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Next Friday, only one Pennsylvania county will not be in the green phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan for reopening from the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s one that borders Dauphin County.

Lebanon County is the only one not slated to move to green June 26, and it’s because of a “partisan, politically driven decision,” according the Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine.

“Against the advice of public health experts and against orders from Governor Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine aimed at keeping Pennsylvanians healthy, Lebanon County commissioners voted 2 to 1 along party lines to prematurely reopen in late May. Now, the county is facing an uptick in cases, and is unable to move to green,” according to a press release Friday from the governor’s office.

“Lebanon County’s partisan, politically driven decision to ignore public health experts and reopen prematurely is having severe consequences for the health and safety of county residents,” Levine said. “Case counts have escalated and the county is not yet ready to be reopened. Lebanon County has hindered its progress by reopening too early. Because of this irresponsible decision, Lebanon County residents are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.”

Wolf today announced that 12 counties will move to the green phase of reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic next Friday — Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Erie, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Susquehanna.

Philadelphia County met the criteria and will move to the state’s green phase June 26; however, local officials will maintain some additional restrictions until July 3, the governor’s office announced.

The Wolf administration has supported specific county requests for more restrictions throughout the phased reopening process, according to a press release.

“When these 12 counties move on June 26, we will have nearly every county in green,”Wolf said. “It’s a testament to the many residents and businesses that have sacrificed over the past three months to stay home and adhere to the guidance the state has provided to protect lives and livelihoods. As we begin to reopen, I urge everyone to stay alert and continue to follow social distancing to maintain the momentum of mitigation we have in place.”

Wolf’s Process to Reopen Pennsylvania outlines remaining restrictions for counties in yellow or green. Effective today, there are 54 counties in green and 13 in yellow.

As counties reopen, Pennsylvania continues to see a steady decline in cases, a positive indicator that its phased, measured reopening plan is working to balance public health with economic recovery, according to the press release.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s analysis of propriety state case data puts Pennsylvania among only three states with a 42-day steady decline in cases, according to the governor’s office. The other two states are Hawaii and Montana.

“By participating in small actions recommended by the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, we can continue to break transmission links even while we resume our daily activities,” Gov. Wolf said. “Things like washing hands, bringing our own water to sports practice and, of course, wearing masks.”

According to peer-reviewed studies in the New England Journal of Medicine and a recent study from Cambridge and Greenwich universities, mask-wearing prevents people from unknowingly giving COVID-19 to others and can be critical as we prepare for a possible resurgence of the virus in the fall, the press release stated.

Green Phase

The green phase eases most restrictions by lifting the stay-at-home and business closure orders to allow the economy to strategically reopen while continuing to prioritize public health, according to the governor’s office. Some restrictions, such as mask-wearing, remain in place.

Work and congregate settings restrictions

• Continued telework strongly encouraged.

• Businesses with in-person operations must follow updated Business and Building Safety Requirements.

• All businesses operating at 50 percent occupancy in the yellow phase may increase to 75 percent occupancy.

• Child care may open complying with guidance.

• Congregate care restrictions in place.

• Prison and hospital restrictions determined by individual facilities

• Schools subject to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state guidance.

Social restrictions

• Large gatherings of more than 250 prohibited.

• Masks are required when entering a business.

• Restaurants and bars open at 50 percent occupancy.

• Personal care services (including hair salons and barbershops) open at 50 percent occupancy and by appointment only.

• Indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities, and personal care services (such as gyms and spas) open at 50 percent occupancy with appointments strongly encouraged.

• All entertainment (such as casinos, theaters, and shopping malls) open at 50 percent occupancy.

• Construction activity may return to full capacity with continued implementation of protocols.

The state continues to use risk-based metrics from Carnegie Mellon University and the Department of Health and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency data dashboard available here.

The state continues to increase testing and ramp up contact-tracing efforts, according to the governor’s office. As of June 18, there are a total of 518 contact tracers, and a total of 4,161 contacts being monitored.

The Department of Health received a total of 89,350 test results in the past seven days, an average of 12,764 a day. The 30-day average of test results received is more than 13,934.

There were 2,763 total cases added to investigations for the week of June 12 through 18.

The latest business guidance, including outdoor recreation guidance, can be found here.

Preliminary sports guidance can be found here.