Gov. Tom Wolf will allow 12 more counties that are home to 1.3 million people to join the nearly 4 million who are now in the least-restrictive phase of his three-step pandemic reopening plan, his office said Friday.
Wolf said that the counties — Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Northumberland, Union, Wayne, Wyoming and York — can join the “green” phase of his stoplight-colored reopening plan next Friday.
Sixteen more counties entered the “green” phase Friday, joining 18 others. That means that gyms, barbers and hair salons can reopen, as can indoor dining at restaurants and bars. Overnight camps and organized youth sports can begin or resume, and gatherings of up to 250 people are allowed, although large demonstrations over the past week around Pennsylvania protesting police brutality routinely exceeded 250 people.
Philadelphia and its suburbs -- home to about 6 million people -- entered the Yellow phase Friday.
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Wolf, a Democrat, drew quick criticism over one county that is remaining in the yellow phase.
“This is beyond ludicrous, it is a direct smack in the face to all Erie County residents,” Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, said in a statement.
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Gatherings in the yellow phase are still limited to 25 people.
However, even in the green phase, businesses are required to maintain social distancing measures, including requiring customers and employees to wear masks, and to limit capacity.
Wolf administration officials haven’t said when those requirements would lift, but Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine suggested that they may remain in place until there is a safe and effective vaccine that is widely available.
The pandemic in Pennsylvania has infected more than 74,000, including 443 new cases reported by the state Department of Health on Friday. It has killed nearly 5,900, including 69 more deaths reported Friday by the department.
In the meantime, roughly 2.4 million people, including the self-employed, have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March, when the effects of Wolf's coronavirus-related emergency shutdowns began to take effect.