As Philly area prepares for ‘yellow,’ state officials caution ‘COVID-19 has not gone away’

Wolf lifts more restrictions in western Pa.

Jim Melwert
May 29, 2020 - 4:18 pm

UPDATED: 5/30/20, 12:50 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia and the surrounding counties will move from the “red” to the “yellow” phase next Friday, as part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s stoplight-colored three-phase reopening plan. 

But health officials caution that just because some restrictions are lifted doesn’t mean the virus has gone away. 

Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties are expected to move to “yellow” on June 5.

In the “yellow” phase, some social interactions are eased. Large gatherings and places like schools, gyms, barbershops, nail salons and movie theaters are still restricted.

The stay-at-home order is lifted, and some in-person retail businesses can open. Restaurants and bars are still limited to takeout and delivery service, though some can offer outdoor dining.

On Friday, Wolf announced that 16 more counties — located in western Pennsylvania — will move to “green” on June 5: Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clinton, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Lycoming, Mercer, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.

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Eighteen counties are already officially in the “green,” as of Friday, including Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.

As southeastern counties prepare to partake in the governor’s phased-in plan, Wolf said he understands the frustration with the limitations, but he’s frustrated too. He encouraged Pennsylvanians to remember how quickly the virus spread before steps were taken in March, adding that no one can wave a magic wand and make it all go away.

“We know that virus is sneaky, that it wants to infect us, wants to make us sick, and if it can, kill us,” he said. “We want to try to defeat that virus.”

“While we can resume some of our regular activities, it is important to be alert to the fact COVID-19 has not gone away,” emphasized Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

Both Wolf and Levine say they are comfortable relaxing some restrictions, as they point to increased testing and contact tracing capabilities, along with modeling and other data that show it is safe.

Still, they say masks and social distancing are crucial, and people need to plan how they can be safe as they resume certain activities.

“For some reason — I don’t know why — wearing masks had become politicized,” Wolf noted, “even though scientific studies have shown it actually reduces the likelihood of spreading COVID-19.”

“You remember your keys and your cellphone before you go out,” said Levine, “add a mask, add hand sanitizer to that list.”

Updated case count

Pennsylvania health officials announced 680 new positive cases of COVID-19 Saturday. The state's total now stands at 71, 415.

73 additional deaths were also reported, raising Pennsylvania's death toll to 5,537.