Centre County Requested Not To Move Into ‘Green’ Status, Didn’t ‘Feel Ready’
Seventeen Pennsylvania counties are set to move into the “green phase,” the least-restrictive stage of Governor Tom Wolf’s plan to reopen the state amid the coronavirus pandemic, next week. However, Centre County isn’t one of them.
Instead, Centre County will remain in the “yellow phase” after county officials asked the governor’s office to give the county another week before loosening restrictions even more.
“The local officials in Centre County said they didn’t feel that Centre County was ready to move, so we honored their request that they not move into the green,” Wolf said in a press conference Friday. “I think they’ve done a phenomenal job…Yet they don’t feel they’re ready. And we were sensitive to their request.”
Those officials, commissioners Mike Pipe and Mark Higgins, cited Pennsylvania’s June 2 primary elections, a potentially high-contact event, as a concern for further loosening restrictions.
“We’re very concerned about the health and safety of the citizens of Centre County,” Higgins said. “We’re still going to have 400-plus poll workers working the elections for 13 hours. We’re concerned about their health and safety and we’re concerned about the thousands of Centre County citizens who are going to show up to vote that day.”
State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman was greatly surprised by the commissioners’ decision and attempted to dissuade them from not moving to green.
“I am stunned Commissioners Pipe and Higgins have chosen to keep our local community shuttered,” Corman wrote on Twitter. “Instead of focusing on what we can do, they said ‘we can’t.’ Instead of saying Centre County residents can and will continue to do a good job of staying safe, social distancing, wearing masks, and more, Commissioners Pipe and Higgins said employers cannot reopen their doors.”
Corman continued his spiel in a Twitter thread, adding the decision prevents workers from returning to their jobs despite data supporting the county moving to the least restrictive phase.
“I can only surmise they don’t trust people,” Corman told StateCollege.com. “They don’t trust the citizens of Centre County to be able to go out in public again and adhere to CDC standards and keep the community safe.”
In the meantime, nearby counties such as Jefferson, Clearfield, and Cameron will move into the green phase on Friday, May 29. Next week, Wolf will likely announce more counties can loosen restrictions, potentially including Centre County.
The green phase greatly eases enforced social and workplace restrictions and allows many businesses, including gyms and salons, to reopen. However, businesses and citizens must continue following public health guidelines, such as social distancing and wearing masks.
It’s not completely clear what criteria is required to move into the green phase. Wolf’s administration reportedly uses metrics such as hospital capacity, testing availability, positive case figures, population density, and more to craft its reopening plan.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, 66,258 positive coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Pennsylvania, 138 of which reside in Centre County. Five deaths have been reported in the county.
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