Chester Co. Joins Chorus of ‘Red' Counties Pleading to Reopen as Wolf Promises More

Commissioners for the biggest and least populated of Philadelphia's adjacent suburban counties pleaded their case in a letter sent May 20. Gov. Wolf, meanwhile, announced plans for more counties moving to the yellow phase.

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Chester County elected officials believe their county will soon be ready to move into the "yellow phase" of Pennsylvania's coronavirus reopening process in a letter they wrote to Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday night.

They are the latest "red" county to write directly to Wolf asking to enter the next phase as officials and residents grow restless. Roughly 3/4ths of Pennsylvania's 67 counties have already moved, or are moving this coming weekend, into the yellow.

In the state's heavily populated southeastern region, however, Wolf has been reluctant to move counties out of red.

But on Thursday afternoon, the governor said he would announce the next day additional counties moving into yellow.

“I’ll be announcing a whole range of counties moving red to yellow," Wolf said. "And maybe even some moving from yellow to green.”

In Bucks County, commissioners who previously pleaded to Wolf said they are "hopeful" to be among those in the next announcement Friday.

Chester County's three elected commissioners wrote that "we are close, but we are not there quite yet" in entering the first official phase of reopening some services and the easing of some restrictions, including allowing outdoor public gatherings of up to 25 people as the state grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

They said they believe that Chester County will be ready by June 4.

Chester County's 14-day rolling average of daily new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 stood at 69 on Thursday, a county spokeswoman said. That remains above the 50 per 100,000 that Pennsylvania is seeking to allow a county to move to yellow.

Some residents in the remaining red counties are growing restless. Protesters gathered outside Montgomery County's government building in Norristown on Thursday. Another protest also occurred in Delaware County.

Protesters in Pennsylvania for reopening counties
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Protesters seeking to reopen Montgomery and Berks counties in Pennsylvania gathered outside a government building in Norristown, Thursday, May 21, 2020.

"Chester County’s data indicates that we should be able to safely move to the yellow phase on June 4th, and that is what we are strongly urging the Governor to agree to," Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline wrote. "This date gives us sufficient time to expand access to testing and the time needed to see a steadier pace of daily new cases. This date also gives us time to make ready our businesses and organizations so that our residents – their customers – can be confident that they will be safe. Most importantly, we have the support of our own Chester County Health Department in aiming for June 4th."

The full letter can be found below. Other counties in southeastern Pennsylvania, like Delaware and Bucks, have previously petitioned Wolf and his health officials, including Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, to move into the yellow phase.

So far, 49 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties are already in the yellow phase or will move into the yellow phase by the start of the Memoral Day weekend. The move to yellow slightly eases the restriction on public gatherings to allow groups of up to 25 and also eases the state's strict stay-at-home order that in the red phase allows for only life-sustaining trips. Restaurants and most other commercial services remain only takeout or delivery.

To find out more about what businesses and activities remain prohibited and what can open again when a county enters the yellow phase, here is information posted by the state:

Here is the Chester County commissioner's full letter:

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