Pennsylvania

Pa.'s ‘Red' Counties Grow Louder in Call for End of Stay-at-Home Order

Some like Bucks County just north of Philadelphia say citizens "have been patient ... now they need to be given the final date so they can prepare for the change."

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Bucks County commissioners and other elected officials pleaded by phone over the weekend with Pennsylvania's health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine.

They asked that her boss, Gov. Tom Wolf, allow their county the ability to move from the red phase to the yellow phase of reopening. They didn't get a yes.

In nearby Montgomery County, Commissioner Joe Gale first demanded a reopening of the local economy late last week. The lone Republican on the commission reiterated his demand Monday.

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A growing chorus of local leaders across Pennsylvania in counties stuck in the "red phase" of the state's coronavirus pandemic lockdown are calling now on Gov. Tom Wolf's administration to provide more clarity or simply get out of the way.

Some said they may defy the state and reopen whether or not they have approval. One local district attorney, Berks County's Don Adams, said he would not prosecute any businesses that violated the state's lockdown orders.

In a survey of all Bucks County state legislators conducted last week by NBC10, two Republican lawmakers said they believed nursing home cases could be excluded from a count used to determine when a county is allowed to reopen.

"While COVID-19 related illnesses and deaths in that population should certainly be included in the overall count, their numbers are not a true indication of 'community spread' and should therefore not be used to determine when to loosen restraints on Bucks County businesses," Rep. Craig Staats, R-145th District, wrote in an email.

"I do believe nursing home and personal care facilities should be counted separately," Rep. Todd Polinchock, R-144th District, wrote. "The healthcare providers should not be counted among them as they still go out into the population. However, most nursing home residents never leave the facility and pose no risk to the general population except to the healthcare providers."

Some legislators, however, disagreed with keeping nursing home counts separate, and no formal legislation has been introduced that would force the Wolf administration to count coronavirus cases any particular way.

Wolf on Monday angrily decried any rebellion from Pennsylvania's unified front against the coronavirus pandemic. He even threatened to delay or withhold funding to counties that ignore his order.

Still, the 30 counties that remain in the state's red phase without any definite date for moving to the yellow phase -- which allows for a limited reopening -- want something concrete.

"We are looking forward to hearing back from the governor's office by Wednesday, May 13, on a future date that Bucks County can move to the 'yellow phase' of reopening with the 37 other counties in the state that have already done so," Bucks County Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo said.

Here's a look at what counties in the Philadelphia region and beyond have said publicly:

Bucks: Held a Skype call with Levine "pressing their case for the county to be moved into the yellow reopening phase."

Berks: "Berks County Commissioners are going to secure input from Healthcare professionals, the Chamber Alliance and other business groups to develop a responsible and safe plan to reopen businesses in Berks County."

Montgomery: Gale, the lone Republican county commissioner, went off last week and called for a reopening and more to be done about long-term care. The county's two Democratic commissioners do not agree with him about reopening.

Lebanon and Schuylkill counties: State lawmakers, county commissioners and others in both counties sent letters to Wolf saying they planned to move from yellow to red on May 15.

Franklin, Lancaster and Dauphin: Officials have indicated they plan to lift pandemic restrictions on their own beginning this week.

The following counties' plans, according to NBC affiliate, WGAL:

Adams: Requesting immediate move from red to yellow.

Cumberland: Exploring options to move the county to the yellow phase.

Dauphin: Plans to move to yellow on Friday, May 15.

Franklin: Plans to move to yellow on Friday, May 15.

Juniata: Demanding to reopen Friday.

Mifflin: Demanding to reopen Friday.

Perry: Urging the governor to move them to the yellow phase.

York: Requesting immediate move to the yellow phase.

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