What to expect when York County enters the yellow phase on Friday

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

Friday may mark a seminal moment in York County's journey to rebuild its economy and for its citizens to return to at least a semblance of normalcy.

Along with 11 other counties in the south-central region, York will enter the yellow phase of reopening following Gov. Tom Wolf's announcement May 15. So far, all but 18 counties statewide have been slated to enter that phase, which lifts stay-at-home orders and allows most businesses to reopen in some capacity.

But as Wolf has said time and time again, the yellow stage doesn't mean everything will go back what it was like before the coronavirus pandemic rocked the state and shuttered its economy for about two months.

“The virus has not been eradicated in these counties,” Wolf said last week. “And we’re continuing to closely monitor case counts.”

More:Coronavirus pandemic: Here's what York County's data looks like

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Both county and York City offices will remain closed except for appointments, as they have been since March, officials said.

While parks themselves will be open to the public, playgrounds, skate parks and basketball courts will still be closed.

Parking meters and garages in York City that were made free during the red phase will go back online Tuesday, said York City Mayor Michael Helfrich.

“The more we can show we are controlling the situation here in York City and in York County, the better our argument will be to move into the green phase as fast as possible,” Helfrich said.

Both the county and city will also follow the general guidelines laid out by the state, officials said.

Those guidelines state that once the county moves into the yellow phase, most businesses will be able to reopen, 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: 

  • 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.
  • Indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities and personal care services — such as gyms, hair salons and nail salons — must remain closed.

Of note, restrictions will remain in place limiting bars and restaurants to only takeout and delivery service.

Other businesses have already begun to announce their reopenings.

Those include, Haar's Drive-In in Dillsburg, which announced it would reopen its outdoor movie theater for Memorial Day weekend.

The Boscov's location in the York Galleria mall in Springettsbury Township will  reopen at 11 a.m. Saturday with strict health guidelines.

With the announcement that Wolf intends to sign legislation that would allow bars to sell "cocktails to go," Wrightsville Borough Council voted unanimously earlier this month to temporarily allow residents to have alcoholic beverages on borough-owned property and parks.

Other businesses, though, began to defy Wolf's orders even before he announced the county would enter the yellow phase.

For example, Round the Clock Diner, which has two locations in the county, was warned by the state it could face up to $10,000 in daily fines after it opened its dining room to the public.

The state Department of Agriculture declined Tuesday to comment whether there is an ongoing investigation into the businesses. York County District Attorney Dave Sunday has said he won't prosecute any businesses out of compliance.

Customers wait in line outside Round the Clock Diner on Route 30, not only for take-out orders but also to have their first sit-down mean in a restaurant since the start of Governor Wolf's COVID-19 shutdown. After learning that the York County District Attorney's office would not enforce criminal penalties due to Governor Wolf's shutdown orders, Round the Clock Diner opened to eat-in customers Sunday, May 10, 2020. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

But York City officials will continue to enforce restrictions with warnings, fines and potential cite closures, Helfrich said.

York's move into the yellow phase will come after weeks of calls from GOP lawmakers in York County and surrounding counties for Wolf to more swiftly reopen their respective economies.

Republicans throughout the state continue to push legislation to make that happen, but Wolf has not hesitated to veto those bills. The governor vetoed three bills alone on Tuesday.

State. Rep. Mike Jones, R-York Township, has been one of the most consistently vocal politicians in York when it comes to calling to reopen all businesses.

Earlier this month, Jones held an event to discuss reopening businesses with more than 150 people at the Wisehaven Event Center in Windsor Township, appearing to directly violate Wolf's social distancing orders.

On Wednesday, he was scheduled to hold an in-person event at The Paddock on Market restaurant in Springettsbury Township with local business owners to demonstrate how restaurants can safely open their dining rooms, despite Wolf's mandate that they remain shuttered.

"Give people who own their own business the CHOICE of whether or not to open their doors and their potential customers the CHOICE of whether or not to frequent them!" Jones wrote on Facebook.

The Manchester Township Board of Commissioners last week approved a resolution in support of all businesses reopening, citing a low number of cases in the county and the township itself.

Neither the township nor the Northern York County Regional Police Department will enforce noncompliance. But the township does expect businesses to follow health guidelines.

"The board decided we have to reopen the economy and let our business owners decide. It is up to them to open," said board chair Lisa Wingert.

Some counties still in the red phase, such as Lancaster, have also seen their leadership call for the blatant defiance of Wolf's orders despite warnings that they could lose relief aid.

The York County Economic Alliance, in conjunction with a Pittsburgh-based economist, has projected that up to 30% of small businesses in the county won't be able to reopen.

Though most businesses will be able to reopen, state officials have urged business owners and customers to only move as fast as they're comfortable with.

For that reason, a swift economic rebound may not occur, with concerned consumers potentially continuing to stay home.

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