HARRISBURG - All 67 counties in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, are anticipated to move into the yellow phase of the state's reopening plan by June 5, according to Governor Tom Wolf.
Gatherings of up to 25 people are allowed in yellow phase counties, as is the resumption of many retail, office and factory activities. Still ordered to remain closed are gyms, barbershops, nail salons, casinos, and theaters. In addition, restaurants and bars will be opened for takeout or delivery only and in-person service will not be allowed. Other restrictions remain in place, including a ban on youth sports.
Public bathing places and other outdoor community pools are permitted to operate in counties in the yellow and green phases of the reopening plan.
“We know not only that we succeeded in slowing case growth, but that our actions, our collective decisions to stay at home and avoid social contact – we know that saved lives,” Gov. Wolf said. “My stay-at-home order did exactly what it was intended to do: It saved lives and it bought us valuable time.”
Wolf is accelerating his reopening plan even though more than 20 Pennsylvania counties remain above the state’s target for new infections that were supposed to qualify them for an easing of pandemic restrictions — and eight counties are more than three times over.
Wolf and his health secretary said the closely watched metric is no longer as important, citing dropping numbers of new virus infections and hospitalizations and increased testing capacity.
“There has been a single-minded focus on keeping people safe. That was true when we started this whole process, it’s true today. That has not changed and it won’t change,” Wolf said in a video news conference.
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The governor announced he is moving Philadelphia, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton and Montgomery counties to “yellow” on June 5.
“It’s clear from the Commonwealth’s action that the work of Philadelphians—complying with the Stay at Home Order, social distancing, practicing good hygiene, and wearing masks—has put us in a much safer position than we were in two months ago. We successfully flattened the curve to prevent a hospital surge, and we undoubtedly slowed the spread of COVID-19 and saved many lives. I cannot thank our residents and business owners enough for their tremendous sacrifices during this extremely challenging time," Mayor Jim Kenney said Friday.
Eight counties are moving to yellow a week earlier, on May 29: Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike and Schuylkill.
Wolf also announced the first batch of counties moving to “green,” the least restrictive phase of his reopening plan: Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren. All of them are lightly populated counties across a northern swath of the state.
Health officials have said they were working on specific guidelines for counties in the green phase.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia projects the celebration of daily and Sunday masses will resume beginning on Saturday, June 6.
President Donald Trump said Friday that he has deemed churches and other houses of worship “essential" and called on governors across the country to allow them to reopen this weekend despite the threat of spreading the coronavirus.
“Today I’m identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services," Trump said during a hastily arranged press conference at the White House, where he didn't take questions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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