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Gov. Wolf: 12 More Counties to Move to Yellow Phase on May 22

Gov. Wolf: 12 More Counties to Move to Yellow Phase on May 22

May 15, 2020

Governor Tom Wolf announced 12 additional Pennsylvania counties will move to the yellow phase of reopening at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 22. Those counties include Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Wayne, and York. Twenty-four counties moved into the yellow phase of reopening on May 8 and another 13 moved to yellow beginning today.

With these additional 12 counties, there will be a total of 49 counties in the yellow phase. The remaining 18 counties are in the red phase.

“Through our social distancing efforts, we have not only reversed a trajectory of exponential new case growth – we have cut it in half,” Gov. Wolf said. “And some of the counties that will be shifting into the yellow phase next week eliminated concerns that we had just two weeks ago. So please, keep up your efforts in the fight so we can continue to add counties to the list of those in the yellow phase. Thank you again for your patience and your hard work.”

Yesterday, Governor Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine amended their yellow phase orders to include 13 counties that moved to the yellow phase today. Those counties include Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland.

Red phase stay-at-home orders remain in effect until June 4 but that does not mean that other counties will not move to the yellow phase in advance of that date.

The reopening plan prioritizes the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians by using a combination of factors to gauge how much movement a location can tolerate before the 2019 novel coronavirus becomes a threat, including metrics developed in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh that will be released twice each week.

Wolf stressed that this plan is not a one-way route. The state is closely monitoring the counties in the yellow phase and will re-impose restrictions if danger arises. If the new case count begins to climb in one area, restrictions will need to be imposed to prevent local medical facilities from becoming overwhelmed. So, Pennsylvanians should continue to make good choices.

Read Gov. Wolf’s Plan for PA here.

Read business guidance here.

Read CDC guidance for child care centers here.

Read FAQs here.

Gov. Wolf to Pennsylvania: We Must Stay the Course, We Must Follow the Law

Governor Tom Wolf today reminded Pennsylvanians that the state’s actions to stop the spread of COVID-19 are working and that we must stay the course and follow the law or there will be negative consequences.

“Pennsylvanians are fighting for our lives,” Gov. Wolf said. “We have fought this deadly virus in the best way we can, and sacrificed in ways we could never have imagined. It has been a new kind of heroism – in many ways a quiet heroism. These heroic acts deserve to be met not by surrendering, but by staying the course.”

The governor reiterated that reopening too soon can cause COVID-19 to spread, for cases and deaths to spike and for closures to be reinstated perhaps for much longer.

Reopening decisions are based on the advice of scientists, medical professionals, and the state’s epidemiologists. Factors that inform decisions include case counts, modeling, geographic location, contact tracing and testing capabilities for individual counties, regions, and the state. Each county is considered individually before deciding on placement into the red, yellow or green phases. Yellow counties have a lower risk of virus spread. Red counties have a higher risk of virus spread.

“I cannot allow residents in a red county to get sick because their local officials can’t see the invisible risk of the virus in their community,” Wolf said. “So, I must, and I will impose consequences if a county locally lifts restrictions when it has not yet been given the go-ahead by the state.”

The governor outlined the following consequences to counties that do not abide by the law to remain closed:

  • Counties will not be eligible for federal stimulus discretionary funds the state receives and intends to provide to counties with populations of fewer than 500,000.
  • Businesses in counties that do not abide by the law will no longer be eligible for business liability insurance and the protections it provides. The Pennsylvania Department of Insurance released details of this earlier today.
  • Restaurants that reopen for dine-in service in counties that have not been authorized to reopen will be at risk of losing their liquor license.
  • County residents receiving unemployment compensation will be able to continue to receive benefits even if their employer reopens. Employees may choose not to return out of concern for personal safety and safety of co-workers.

“This is not a time to give up,” Wolf said. “This is a time to rededicate ourselves to the task of beating this virus. I intend to keep fighting, and I believe that the overwhelming majority of my fellow Pennsylvanians intend to keep fighting it too. With that unity, I know we can win.”

Gov. Wolf Announces 13 Counties will Move to Yellow Phase of Reopening on May 15

Today Governor Tom Wolf announced 13 Pennsylvania counties will move to the yellow phase of reopening at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 15. Those counties include Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.

On May 1, the governor announced the 24 counties moving into the yellow phase of reopening beginning today. And, last evening, he and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed new orders – one for yellow phase reopening and one to extend the red phase counties’ stay-at-home order, which was set to expire last night, to June 4. The red phase stay-at-home order extension does not mean that other counties won’t move to the yellow phase in advance of June 4.

“The reopening plan prioritizes the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians by using a combination of factors to gauge how much movement a location can tolerate before the 2019 novel coronavirus becomes a threat,” Gov. Wolf said. “I’d like to emphasize that this plan is not a one-way route. We are closely monitoring the 24 counties in the yellow phase and will re-impose restrictions if danger arises.”

Gov. Wolf reminded residents and business owners that yellow means caution and that everyone needs to continue to be mindful of their actions and how they affect not only themselves, but their families, friends and community.

“Every contact between two people is a new link in the chain of potential transmission,” Wolf said. “And if the new case count begins to climb in one area, restrictions will need to be imposed to prevent local medical facilities from becoming overwhelmed. So, Pennsylvanians should continue to make good choices.”

Law enforcement remains focused on achieving voluntary compliance through education, but citations are possible for violators depending on the specific circumstances of an investigation.

In addition to the possible criminal penalties levied by law enforcement, there may be additional licensing consequences for violators, in part, through complaints filed by employees on the Department of Health portal that allows any employee who feels their employer is not providing a safe work environment to fill out an online form.

The Department of Health vets the complaints and investigates internally or sends the complaint to the appropriate state agency for investigation. For example, restaurant complaints are handled by the Department of Agriculture, which inspects those facilities; complaints about nursing homes are handled by the Department of Health, which inspects and licenses those facilities. Other involved agencies are the departments of State and Labor & Industry.

Concerns about a business reopening that may be in violation of stay-at-home or yellow phase orders should be made to local law enforcement non-emergency numbers or a local elected official.

Read Gov. Wolf’s Plan for PA here.

Read business guidance here.

Read CDC guidance for child care centers here.

Read FAQs here.

View the Carnegie Mellon University Risk-Based Decision Support Tool here.

Gov. Wolf, Attorney General Shapiro Announce Protections from Foreclosures and Evictions Through July 10

Gov. Wolf, Attorney General Shapiro Announce Protections from Foreclosures and Evictions Through July 10

May 07, 2020

May 7, 2020

Governor Tom Wolf was joined by Attorney General Josh Shapiro today to announce that he signed an executive order that protects Pennsylvanians from foreclosures or evictions through July 10. The action builds on a Pennsylvania Supreme Court order which closed court eviction proceedings until May 11 and ensures no renter or homeowner will be removed from their home for 60 more days.

“At a time when people need to stay home to protect their heath, they should not have to worry about losing their homes,” said Governor Wolf. “Ensuring that people can remain in their homes will help them to better protect their loved ones. It gives families the comfort of knowing they will have a place to live while all of us work together to fight COVID-19 and prepare to move Pennsylvania forward.”

“I commend the Governor for his decision to delay eviction and foreclosure proceedings. We know it’s critical for public health, and for our economic recovery, that people stay in their homes during this emergency,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “This order gives people struggling with lost income something they can count on — a roof over their heads.”

In almost all circumstances, renters and homeowners are required to continue making monthly payments. If you are a Pennsylvanian struggling to make your monthly payments, you should contact your landlord or mortgage servicer immediately.

The Wolf Administration provided recommendations last week to stem foreclosures, evictions and help people experiencing homelessness. The Department of Human Services activated the commonwealth’s Sheltering Taskforce and is working with local and state partners to coordinate resources for people without housing. The Department of Community and Economic Development is also accepting applications for Emergency Solutions Grants to assist with the rapid rehousing of people experiencing homelessness, street outreach, homelessness prevention, and emergency shelter activities.

PHFA is also taking action to help homeowners and renters. The agency has stopped foreclosures and evictions and is offering forbearances with late fee waivers to homeowners with a PHFA mortgage who are experiencing a financial hardship because of COVID-19. PHFA also developed a list of renters’ rights and responsibilities to clarify the situation for apartment residents and is working with landlords and property managers to distribute it to renters. PHFA is also encouraging Low-Income Housing Tax Credit building managers to be flexible on rent payments and to waive late fees for tenants whose employment has been affected by the crisis.

“During the past few weeks, we’ve had great cooperation from Pennsylvanians who understand that staying home is not just about protecting themselves, it’s about protecting everyone in the community,” said Gov. Wolf. This executive order takes one more burden off people who are struggling and gives them more time to get back on their feet.”

More helpful information is available from the following:

 

Gov. Wolf Announces Reopening of 24 Counties Beginning May 8

Gov. Wolf Announces Reopening of 24 Counties Beginning May 8

May 1, 2020

Balancing economic benefits and public health risks, Governor Tom Wolf today announced the reopening of 24 counties in the northwest and north-central regions of the state, moving them from red to yellow beginning at 12:01 a.m., Friday, May 8.

“Over the past two months, Pennsylvanians in every corner of our commonwealth have acted collectively to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Wolf said. “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.”

Counties Moving to Yellow Reopening
The 24 counties that will move from red to yellow on May 8 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.

These counties were deemed ready to move to a reopening – or yellow phase – because of low per-capita case counts, the ability to conduct contact tracing and testing, and appropriate population density to contain community spread.

Decision Process
The administration partnered with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to create a Risk-Based Decision Support Tool that enables decision makers to strike a balance between maximizing the results of our economy while minimizing public health risks.

The CMU tool looked at the impacts of risk factors such as reported number of COVID cases per population of an area; ICU and medical/surgical bed capacity; population density; population over age 60; re-opening contact risk, such as the number of workers employed in a currently closed industry sector.

The CMU metrics were considered along with the county’s or region’s ability to conduct testing and contact-tracing to first and foremost maintain robust public health.

The Department of Health developed testing and contact-tracing plans that informed today’s decisions and will be used in making decisions moving forward. Factors include: having enough testing available for individuals with symptoms and target populations such as those at high risk, health care personnel, and first responders, and the ability to perform robust case investigation and have in place a contact-tracing infrastructure that can quickly identify a cluster of outbreaks to issue any necessary isolation and quarantine orders.

All reopening decisions follow the six standards outlined in the governor’s plan to reopen Pennsylvania. These include adhering to:

  • Data-driven and quantifiable criteria to drive a targeted, evidence-based, regional approach to reopening.
  • Clear guidance and recommendations for employers, individuals, and health care facilities and providers for assured accountability.
  • Adequate and available personal protective equipment and diagnostic testing.
  • A monitoring and surveillance program that allows the commonwealth to deploy swift actions for containment or mitigation.
  • Protections for vulnerable populations such as limitations on visitors to congregate care facilities and prisons.
  • Limitations on large gatherings unrelated to occupations.

“Our goal since this pandemic was first identified in Pennsylvania has been to save lives while ensuring that the public health system does not become overwhelmed with people suffering from COVID-19,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Our contact tracing and testing plans will ensure that as we begin to resume our daily activities, we can do so safely and without fear.”

While both Gov. Wolf and Dr. Levine cautioned that we cannot be certain of the path of the virus, all decisions on partial reopening are driven first by prioritizing the health and safety of Pennsylvanians.

Defining the Yellow Phase
As regions or counties move into the yellow phase, some restrictions on work and social interaction will ease while others, such as closures of schools, gyms, and other indoor recreation centers, hair and nail salons, as well as limitations around large gatherings, remain in place.

On Monday, May 4, the administration will release guidance for businesses permitted to reopen on May 8 in these 24 counties. The guidance is being developed through collaboration with the affected counties, Team PA, the Department of Health, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Department of Labor & Industry, among others. Guidance will build on existing safety and building safety orders released in April.

Work & Congregate Setting Restrictions

  • Telework Must Continue Where Feasible
  • Businesses with In-Person Operations Must Follow Business and Building Safety Orders
  • Child Care Open Complying with Guidance
  • Congregate Care and Prison Restrictions in Place
  • Schools Remain Closed for In-Person Instruction

Social Restrictions

  • Stay at Home Order Lifted for Aggressive Mitigation
  • Large Gatherings of More than 25 Prohibited
  • In-Person Retail Allowable, Curbside and Delivery Preferable
  • Indoor Recreation, Health and Wellness Facilities and Personal Care Services (such as gyms, spas, hair salons, nail salons and other entities that provide massage therapy), and all Entertainment (such as casinos, theaters) Remain Closed
  • Restaurants and Bars Limited to Carry-Out and Delivery Only

All businesses not specifically mentioned as restricted from reopening may reopen if they follow the forthcoming guidance.

Moving Forward
Gov. Wolf stressed the need for all Pennsylvanians to now, more than ever, take personal responsibility for their actions.

“Every human-to-human contact is a chance for the virus to spread, so more contacts mean a higher likelihood of an outbreak,” Wolf said. “If we see an outbreak occur in one of the communities that has been moved to yellow, we will need to take swift action, and revert to the red category until the new case count falls again. So, Pennsylvanians living in a county that has been moved to the yellow category should continue to strongly consider the impact of their actions.”

Counties that will remain under the stay-at-home order will be considered for reopening in the next several weeks as the state continues to closely monitor metrics and collaborate with CMU, health experts and counties.

The full reopening plan is available here.

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