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Still shuttered: Wolf doesn't clear York County for 'yellow' reopening phase

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

For the second time in as many weeks, York County did not make the list of those that will soon begin emerging from Gov. Tom Wolf's lockdown measures intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

The south-central region, which includes York County, was not a part of Wolf's Friday afternoon announcement shifting 13 counties in the state's southwest region from the red designation to yellow beginning May 15.

“However, residents should be mindful that yellow still means caution,” Wolf said Friday. “Every contact between two people is another link in the chain of transmission.”

The announcement followed one made May 1, when Wolf said 24 counties in the state's northwest and north-central regions would transition out of the weightiest limitations on businesses and activity.

Those 24 counties moved Friday to the yellow mitigation phase. Joining them next week will be 13 counties from western Pennsylvania, including Allegheny, Greene and Westmoreland. 

State House Republicans were less than thrilled Friday with what they called the governor's "go-it-alone approach."

“The governor has continuously said the timeline for Pennsylvanians is being determined by the virus. Well, we cannot wait any longer for the ‘virus’ to return our calls," read a statement from House GOP leadership. 

Wolf's stay-at-home and business closure orders have been met with significant backlash from Republicans, which again erupted late Thursday after he extended stay-at-home orders to June 4 for counties in the red phase.

Republican state lawmakers were incensed after Wolf didn't notify them that he would be extending his stay-at-home order prior to sending out a news release Thursday night. 

More:Wolf unveils 'coronavirus corps' plan, but offers few details

More:Wolf extends stay-at-home order for most Pennsylvanians

Several York area townships and boroughs, including Springettsbury Park,  have closed playgrounds in their public parks, Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

"His administration could have made this known earlier today at the Senate public hearing, or at his news conference with Attorney General Shapiro, or at the daily briefing with the Department of Health," tweeted Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township.

"Nope, just a news release at 8 p.m. Our patience has worn out."

Last month, thousands protested at the state Capitol in a rebuke of Wolf's orders. 

But the courts refused to limit Wolf's power after his opponents challenged his authority to shutter the state under an emergency declaration. Both the U.S. Supreme Court and state Supreme Court have sided with Wolf in legal challenges questioning the constitutionality of his orders.

The Wolf administration's plan says the yellow phase "begins to power back up the economy while keeping a close eye on the public health data to ensure the spread of disease remains contained to the greatest extent possible."

Upon moving to the yellow stage, Wolf's stay-at-home order will be lifted, but remote work must continue "where feasible."

In-person businesses and the public in general will still be required to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as social distancing and the wearing of masks.

Child care facilities will also be able to open as long as guidance from the CDC is followed.

In addition, in-person retail will be allowable, but curbside and delivery are "preferable."

The following restrictions remain in effect under the yellow designation: 

  • Large gatherings of 25 or more will still be prohibited.
  • Schools will remain closed.
  • Restrictions on prisons and congregate care facilities will still be in effect.
  • Bars and restaurants will still be limited to takeout and delivery.
  • Indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities and personal care services — such as gyms, hair salons and nail salons — must remain closed.

In determining which regions will reopen, the state takes into account population density, testing data, contact tracing and hospital resources.

To meet the benchmark for reopening, all counties in regions delineated by the state also must have fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf speaks during a meeting with The York Dispatch editorial staff at the Dispatch offices Friday, October 19, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

York County itself has reached that benchmark, averaging about 39 cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks.

“We’re also looking at nearby counties,” Wolf said. “If current trends continue, they should be moving to yellow soon as well.”

The negative economic impact of coronavirus mitigation efforts have been unavoidable throughout both the state and nation.

The state has seen an influx in applications for unemployment benefits since the outbreak prompted Wolf to shutter nonessential businesses.

There have been more than 1.7 million unemployment applications in Pennsylvania as of Friday, a record-shattering number. 

Roughly 33 million Americans have sought unemployment nationwide since the beginning of the national lockdown.

York County hasn't been spared either, according to an analysis by the York County Economic Alliance.

Up to 30% of the 4,700 small businesses in the county will "fail" and be forced to close permanently in the aftermath of the virus, YCEA President Kevin Schreiber said Thursday.

"Sadly, this is all very sobering news," Schreiber said. "And it probably just validates much of what you’d suspect.”

As of noon Sunday, there were 773 confirmed coronavirus cases in York County. There have been 13 reported deaths linked to the virus.

Statewide, cases reached 56,611 Sunday afternoon, with 3,707 deaths. 

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.