Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday that 24 counties in rural northern Pennsylvania will see some relief from state-at-home restrictions and businesses closure.
The counties that are moving from “red” to “yellow” in Pennsylvania´s color-coded reopening plan are located in the northwest and north-central regions of the state. These counties have suffered fewer virus infections and deaths than most of the rest of the state.
The counties where pandemic restrictions will be eased 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 exception in that group is Columbia, which is still struggling with a relatively high number of infections.
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The changes are projected for next Friday, May 8, and will impact about 1.5 million of Pennsylvania’s 12.8 million residents. Stay-at-home orders will be lifted and retail shops can start to reopen, though gyms, barber shops, nail salons, casinos, theaters and other such venues will remain closed.
“Over the past two months, Pennsylvanians in every corner of our commonwealth have acted collectively to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Wolf said in a written statement. “We have seen our new case numbers stabilize statewide and while we still have areas where outbreaks are occurring, we also have many areas that have few or no new cases.”
Concerning the mass testing strategy, the goal is that 90% of the state’s population live within 45 miles of a testing site, and 2% of the population are tested each month.
Health officials also say the incidence of new cases is not the only metric they are considering.
Expanded virus testing,enough hospital capacity and contact tracing must also be in place. The state Department of Health is also using a new modeling tool by Carnegie Mellon University to help officials decide when a region is ready to reopen.
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Wolf´s announcement comes when some restrictions on business sectors have benn lifted. On Friday, golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately owned campgrounds statewide can reopen, and construction can restart.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania is nearing 49,000 as the death toll has topped 2,500.