Philadelphia area likely to open in ‘yellow’ phase on June 5

UPDATED: 5/24/20, 12:22 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Gov. Tom Wolf “anticipates” that southeastern Pennsylvania counties currently in the “red” phase of his reopening plan — including the greater Philadelphia area — will move to the “yellow” phase on June 5, he announced on Friday.

Other counties will move from “red” to “yellow” first, beginning May 29: Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike and Schuylkill. Wolf said he “anticipates” the Philadelphia area to follow the week after, including Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties.

By that point, the entire state would be out of the restrictive “red” phase.

Wolf cited a Drexel University study, which found that in Philadelphia alone, 60 days of staying at home resulted in more than 7,000 lives saved and prevented more than 68,000 people from being hospitalized.

Over the past couple of weeks, Wolf said there have been sustained reductions in hospitalizations, and efforts to slow the spread of the virus have been working.

“We know not only that we succeeded in slowing case growth, but that our actions, our collective decisions to stay at home and avoid social contact — we know that saved lives,” he said. “My stay-at-home order did exactly what it was intended to do: It saved lives and it bought us valuable time.”

Additionally, Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said 17 counties that have been in the “yellow” will move to “green” on May 29: Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.

Wolf emphasized that moving into the “green” phase will still require precautions to keep everyone safe. COVID-19 continues to be a threat to our health and welfare, he said, and unfortunately, that won't change until there is a vaccine or cure.

What does ‘yellow’ mean?

Some social interactions are eased under the “yellow” designation, while restrictions on large gatherings and some businesses — schools, gyms, barbershops, nail salons, movie theaters — remain in place.

The stay-at-home order is lifted in the “yellow” phase, but strict social distancing rules must continue to be followed.

Gatherings of more than 25 people are prohibited.

Some in-person retail businesses can open, though state officials say delivery or curbside options are still preferred. 

Restaurants and bars are still limited to takeout and delivery service, though Wolf just signed a bill permitting licensed restaurants and bars to sell to-go cocktails.

“I trust that Pennsylvanians will continue to do what they need to do to keep themselves and others from getting sick,” Wolf tweeted. “As a commonwealth, we continue to increase testing every day and are building out contact tracing capacity, as well.”

Officials update new cases

Pennsylvania's Department of Health reported 730 new COVID-19 cases Sunday. This brings the state's total amount of positive cases to 67,713.

28 additional deaths were confirmed as well. To date, 5,124 Pennsylvanians have died of COVID-19.

Philadelphia health officials had announced 225 new cases of the virus Saturday, lifting the city's total to 21,234. 12 additional deaths were also confirmed, bringing the city's death toll to 1,233.

___

KYW Newsradio's Rachel Kurland, John McDevitt and Andre Bennett contributed to this report.