Several Pennsylvania Counties Moving to Reopen as Gov. Tom Wolf’s Control Frays

Protesters demonstrate at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Monday, April 20, 2020, demanding that Gov. Tom Wolf reopen Pennsylvania's economy even as new social-distancing mandates took effect at stores and other commercial buildings. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Several Pennsylvania counties are planning to begin reopening, regardless of Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and his orders placing them in an extended lockdown period.

Pennsylvania county leaders and residents are growing increasingly frustrated with the governor, who recently extended the lockdown order for counties remaining in the red phase until June 4.

Only 24 counties moved into the state’s yellow phase of reopening on Friday, which loosens restrictions on in-person retail operations but requires many businesses, like gyms and hair and nail salons, to remain closed.

Wolf last week announced that 13 other counties could join them and begin reopening on Friday, May 15. However, several counties have been left in the dust, and local leaders are revolting, vowing to proceed with plans to reopen despite Wolf’s orders.

“We prefer to act with your cooperation, but we intend to move forward with a plan to restore Lancaster County,” county leaders wrote in a letter to the governor questioning his “methods.”

“Governor, we don’t question your motives, however given all that has unfolded over the past several weeks, we must question your methods. We believe we share the same goals: public health, safety and an economy that can begin to recover,” they added.

Other county leaders have released letters, indicating that they plan to charge ahead and move into the next phase of reopening, even though the governor excluded them.

Lebanon County commissioners appealed to the frustration of residents, who they say “desire the ability to safely reopen their businesses and safely return to work.”

Residents “heeded your instructions to practice social distancing and other mitigation efforts, and as a result, our local health care facilities do not lack the capacity to effectively treat these patients going forward,” they wrote in the letter.

“Lebanon County plans to move forward and will require businesses who are ready to reopen to follow CDC guidelines including requirements such as hand washing, social distancing, and masks until further guidance is received for the county to move to the green phase,” they added.

Jeff Haste, Pennsylvania’s Dauphin County Board chairman, came out particularly forcefully, blasting Wolf and and Health Secretary Rachel Levine, referring to them as a “dictator and an unelected secretary.”

Haste said residents should be given the opportunity to demonstrate that they can reopen their businesses responsibly and safely.

“I truly believe, if given the opportunity, businesses and citizens and residents will do the right thing, will follow the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines, and will let the rest of the business go,” he said.

Haste “expects his board to take up a resolution Wednesday moving Dauphin into the equivalent of the state’s yellow phase for reopening from Wolf’s statewide business closure and stay-at-home orders,” PennLive reported.

According to WGAL, several counties are either planning to open Friday or are clamoring to do so:

  • Adams County: Requesting immediate move from red to yellow.
  • Cumberland County: Exploring options to move the county to the yellow phase.
  • Dauphin County: Plans to move to yellow on Friday, May 15.
  • Franklin County: Plans to move to yellow on Friday, May 15.
  • Juniata County: Demanding to reopen Friday.
  • Lancaster County: Prepared to move to yellow on Friday, May 15.
  • Lebanon County: Planning to move to yellow on Friday, May 15.
  • Mifflin County: Demanding to reopen Friday.
  • Perry County: Urging the governor to move them to the yellow phase.
  • York County: Requesting immediate move to the yellow phase.

Officials in Pennsylvania’s Buck County are also in talks with the governor’s office to move into the next phase of reopening.

Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia stated:

The citizens of Bucks have been patient and committed to the requirements of a stay-at-home order and use of PPE; now they need to be given the final date so they can prepare for the change, which will involve extensive social distancing requirements.

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 counties moved into the yellow phase of reopening last week. This week, 13 additional counties — Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland — will join them this week, per the governor’s orders.

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