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Centre County Plans To Move To ‘Green’ Phase May 29

Update, May 26: Centre County will officially move into Governor Tom Wolf’s “green” phase of reopening on Friday, May 29 after his administration accepted county officials’ request Tuesday morning.

The county won’t need to go through an additional waiting period to loosen restrictions and can open on Friday as previously planned.

Original Story: After initially requesting to remain in Governor Tom Wolf’s “yellow” phase Friday, Centre County plans to move into the “green” phase of reopening this week, according to county officials.

On Tuesday, Centre County commissioners Mike Pipe and Mark Higgins, along with fellow commissioner Steve Dershem, plan to vote in favor of informing the governor the county is prepared to further loosen restrictions and enter the green phase on May 29. Initially, they intended to hold out until June 5 once the state’s primary elections had wrapped up.

“My concern and reason for asking for a delay was based on the safety of our poll works, in-person voters, and the spread of COVID-19 on Primary Election Day, June 2 — just four days after moving into the green phase,” Pipe wrote.

Pipe added he’s been in contact with Pennsylvania’s Department of Health, which helped address his concerns related to community spread. Additionally, he noted the Centre County Elections Board plans to further utilize vote-by-mail, reduce “high contact surfaces,” and provide personal protective equipment to poll workers to promote safety on election day.

Higgins continued that sentiment on Facebook, where he addressed the commissioners’ decision process Friday.

“Based on the information we had at the time, we were concerned about our poll workers and an increased possibility of the election becoming a super spreader event if the County moved to the Green Phase before the Primary Election,” Higgins wrote on Facebook.

Governor Wolf’s green phase of reopening allows closed businesses, including movie theaters, shopping malls, gyms, and spas, to reopen at limited capacity. Restaurants and bars can also resume dine-in operations at 50% capacity. All reopened businesses must continue following social distancing measures and proper health guidelines.

On a call Saturday, Dershem encouraged his fellow commissioners to move in support of loosening restrictions this week, citing citizens’ financial struggles.

“Most importantly, I think there are a lot of folks out there that really do need the relief,” he said. “There’s folks that are struggling, both financially and from a business structure standpoint. We need to give them that relief as quickly as possible.”

However, as Centre County prepares to lift restrictions even further, Pipe encourages residents to “remain vigilant” and “continue to look out for each other” while following health recommendations and guidelines.

“I know that business owners, and our local economy [are] hurting, and we are all looking forward to a safe reopening,” Pipe wrote. “I thank you once again for all of your input, your understanding, and for your continued commitment to making Centre County one of the best places to call home. The ‘green phase’ is not a return to normal. I wish it was. There will be a day when we have a vaccine and we can move into a ‘new normal.’ I pray that we all get to see that day. Please stay safe.”

To date, Pennsylvania has reported 67,713 cases of the coronavirus, 146 of which reside in Centre County. The county has reported six coronavirus-related deaths so far.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt is a junior majoring in journalism and is Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football aficionado, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza. He loves Seinfeld, is really into video games, and would wipe the floor with you in Halo. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ for bad sports takes or email him at [email protected]

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