On Friday, May 8th, 24 counties in Pennsylvania will be reopening, moving from “phase red” to “phase yellow” as certain restrictions are lifted, so that businesses and individuals can begin to get back to a “new normal”. These counties 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.
They have been selected based on a new data dashboard created by the PA government in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University that measures the economic benefit in the selected region versus the potential health risks. The health risk factors taken into account are:
COVID Case Risk: # of reported COVID-19 cases / population of area
ICU Capacity Risk: # of 60+ year olds in area / # of unoccupied ICU Beds
Population Density Risk: Population of Region / Area of Region
Population Age Risk: % of population in area > 60 yr old
Re-Opening Contact Risk: % of workers in an area employed in currently “physically closed” industry sectors
In order for a county to reopen, it needs to have fewer than 50 new confirmed cases per a 100,000 population within the previous two weeks. There must also be testing available for vulnerable populations, emergency responders and health care workers. A comprehensive contact tracing initiative must be in place, and high risk industries, such as congregate care facilities, must have enough equipment and personnel to implement necessary and mandated safeguards and required protocols.
To read more about PA’s testing plan, click here.
To read more about PA’s contact tracing initiative, click here.
These required protocols are still being developed and will be updated based on data and feedback from reopening industries. In the meantime, the CDC recommends standard social distancing protocols such as staying 6 feet apart, the restriction of unnecessary travel and gatherings of no more than 25 people. Having a plan that includes disinfection protocols using EPA approved disinfectants and continuing to wear face masks should also be required for any reopening businesses. To see official CDC recommendations, click here.
To find COVID-19 PPE and supplies for your business reopening in PA, check here.
So what exactly does it mean to move from “phase red” to “phase yellow”? Phase red is the phase most states have been in for the past month–the operation of essential businesses and essential travel only, stay at home mandates, etc. Phase yellow relaxes some of these restrictions. Although telework must continue where possible, some businesses may open while following business and building safety orders. Child care facilities may start to reopen. While (in PA) entertainment and wellness/recreational businesses remain closed, stay at home orders are remanded and gatherings of up to 25 people are now allowed. This is all with the understanding that social distancing protocol must still be obeyed. For a complete list and delineation of the phases in PA, click here.
Switching to “phase yellow” does not mean the danger has passed and that things should go back to normal. It means that with strict adherence to government guidelines and recommendations, the State believes that certain parts of the economy may begin to function without overwhelming current hospital capacity. Make sure you continue to take all necessary and recommended precautions and closely monitor the health of yourself and your loved ones.
Yours in Strength,
The Take Back Control Team