(The Center Square) – All of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties will see pandemic restrictions lifted, in part, as of June 5, Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday.
Some regions will even see bars and restaurants reopen with limited capacity as the state’s testing capabilities expand to better monitor the ongoing spread of COVID-19.
“We know more about this virus now and we are doing a better job,” Wolf said. "What hasn’t changed is the focus on keeping people safe. I think we know more now about how to do that.”
The Department of Health reports that 66,000 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 6 and at least 57 percent of them have since recovered. The new data is based on patients where 30 days have elapsed since a positive test result or the onset of symptoms, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. Nearly 5,000 residents have died, the majority of which live in residential care facilities scattered across the state.
“Today we have a lot more answers than we did back then [in March],” Wolf said. “We know now that we not only succeeded in slowing the growth, but our collective actions … of staying home have saved lives.”
Wolf said labs across the state have increased testing capacity 65 percent and 300 testing sites operate in nearly every county. Meanwhile, hospitalizations for COVID-19 shrank by more than half between May 8 and May 15 and another third through Friday. Likewise, ventilator usage has dropped more than 30 percent.
“We have sustained this decline even as we are reopening businesses and resuming activity,” Wolf said.
The administration finds the numbers so encouraging that its confident even the hard-hit Philadelphia region, where more than 25 percent of the state’s total cases have been detected, will be ready to progress to the less restrictive yellow stage of the phased economic reopening plan within two weeks. This is despite diagnosing new cases at a rate higher than the previous benchmark of less than 50 per 100,000 residents. Levine said that calculation is less critical than it was before.
Wolf said the 17 counties moving into green phase on May 29 include Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren. Those moving from red to yellow that same day include Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, and Schuylkill counties.
On June 5, the remaining counties – Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton, Montgomery, and Philadelphia – will progress into the yellow phase as well.
Green phase counties can reopen restaurant dining rooms, gyms and salons, among other previously restricted economic activity, at 50 percent capacity. High school graduations can be held at the will of local officials, Levine said, but other crowded events, like concerts and festivals, are still restricted.