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Commissioner Pries says Dauphin County moving to yellow phase May 15, might be defying Wolf

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Dauphin County appears in line to be moving to the yellow phase of the COVID-19 reopening plan. And, much like neighboring Lebanon County, it might do it whether Gov. Tom Wolf approves of it or not.

Commissioner Mike Pries tweeted out the following Friday night:

“BREAKING NEWS:  Dauphin County will be joining Lebanon County and move to Phase Yellow of #COVID19 Phased Reopening Plan on May 15, 2020.”

RELATED STORY: Chairman of Dauphin County commissioners tells Wolf to stop running 'dictatorship,' open state

His tweet followed a scathing letter issued Friday by Commissioner Jeff Haste, a fellow Republican, which told Wolf to stop running the state as a "dictatorship" during the coronavirus pandemic. Wolf is a Democrat.

The county's press secretary, Amy Richards, told the Press & Journal that Haste wrote the letter alone but on behalf of the board. The other commissioner is George P. Hartwick III, a Democrat.

RELATED STORY: Commissioner Haste tells Press & Journal that 'we're beyond waiting for the governor' and businesses 'smart enough' to open if given chance

"Enough is enough," Haste's letter begins. "It is time to reopen the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and return our state to the people (as prescribed by our Constitution) and not run it as a dictatorship.”

Haste said the "governor has pitted groups of Pennsylvanians against one another" and "has not included county commissioners in this process" when it comes to the closure of non-life-sustaining businesses. He said that he has "no faith in Gov. Wolf and Secretary Levine’s ability to do the right thing.”

Also on Friday, a group of Lebanon County elected officials told Wolf in a letter that whether he decides to move it there or not, Lebanon County will consider itself moved into the yellow phase on May 15.

The letter was to sent to Wolf and signed by Sen. Dave Arnold, 48th Senate District; state Rep. Russ Diamond, 102nd House District; state Rep. Frank Ryan, 101st House District; state Rep. Sue Helm, 104th House District; Lebanon County Commissioners Bill Ames and Bob Phillips; Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf; Lebanon County Coroner Jeffrey Yocum; and Lebanon County Sherif Bruce Klinger.

All the signers are Republicans.

Arnold’s 48th District includes includes Middletown, Royalton and Londonderry and Lower Swatara townships. 

Also Friday, in Beaver County, its board of commissioners announced that the district attorney there will not prosecute businesses that violate orders and reopen.

Beaver County remains in the red phase even though the counties around it are or will be in the yellow phase. That is likely because of Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, which as of Friday  had 312 cases of COVID-19, with 21 employees testing positive and 71 deaths.

It’s not clear what effect the actions of the elected officials in the three counties will have if Wolf doesn’t decide to move them to the yellow phase.

As of Friday, 24 counties moved to the yellow phase with 13 more scheduled for May 15.

The 24 are 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.

The 13 are Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.