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Chester County Press

As Gov. Wolf begins state reopening, Chester County to remain in ‘red’ phase

05/12/2020 05:20PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

As part of a multi-colored, three-phase matrix designed to diagnose and subsequently determine when Pennsylvania counties can begin to ease restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and slowly reopen, Gov. Tom Wolf announced on May 1 that 24 counties would move from the red phase of the plan and into the yellow phase.

Chester County was not among them.

On May 8, Wolf announced that 13 additional counties will move to the yellow phase of reopening beginning on May 15.

Again, Chester County was not included in that group, and now joins 29 other counties who remain in the red phase, and whose stay-at-home orders, originally set to expire on May 8, have been extended to June 4, although additional counties may be selected to be moved into the yellow phase before June 4.

“The reopening plan prioritizes the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians by using a combination of factors to gauge how much movement a location can tolerate before the 2019 novel coronavirus becomes a threat,” Gov. Wolf said. “I’d like to emphasize that this plan is not a one-way route. We are closely monitoring the 24 counties in the yellow phase and will re-impose restrictions if danger arises.”

The purpose of the yellow phase, Gov. Wolf said, is to begin to power back up the state’s economy while keeping a close eye on the public health data to ensure the spread of disease remains contained to the greatest extent possible.

While no counties have yet reached the green phase, those counties now in the yellow phase will see the easing of some restrictions on work and social interaction, but will still have to endure the closures of schools, gyms, and other indoor recreation centers, hair and nail salons, as well as limitations around large gatherings.

Wolf said that the reopening decisions that move the state’s counties from the red phase to the yellow phase – and ultimately, the green phase -- are based on the advice of scientists, medical professionals, and the state’s epidemiologists. Factors that inform decisions include case counts, modeling, geographic location, contact tracing and testing capabilities for individual counties, regions, and the state. Each county is considered individually before deciding on placement into the red, yellow or green phases. Yellow counties have a lower risk of virus spread. Red counties have a higher risk of virus spread.

Translated into colors and phases, Pennsylvania is an almost perfect divide of yellow counties to the north, and red counties at its southern portion, and for good reason. While there are now 57,154 positive cases and 3,731 deaths due to COVID-19 throughout the commonwealth, the highest numbers of positive cases recorded have been near the borders of Chester County: Philadelphia (15,008), Montgomery (5,292), Delaware (5,046), Bucks (4,028) and Berks (3,417). 

In contrast to its neighboring counties, Chester County has recorded 1,906 positive cases of coronavirus and 184 deaths.

“I cannot allow residents in a red county to get sick because their local officials can’t see the invisible risk of the virus in their community,” Gov. Wolf said. “So, I must, and I will impose consequences if a county locally lifts restrictions when it has not yet been given the go-ahead by the state.”

Gov. Wolf said that while he has lifted some restrictions in the more rural regions of the state, he reminded residents and business owners that the yellow designation means “caution” and that “every contact between two people is a new link in the chain of potential transmission.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].



COVID-19 Reopening Phases for Pennsylvania

Red Phase

Work & Congregate Setting Restrictions:

Only life sustaining business can remain open

Congregate care and prison restrictions are in place

Schools (for in-person instruction) and most child care facilities are closed.

Social Restrictions:

Stay at home orders are in place

Large gatherings are prohibited

Restaurants and bars are limited to carry-out and delivery only

Travel is encouraged for life-sustaining purposes only

Safety guidance for businesses, workers, individuals, facilities must be enforced and updated in necessary

Public health indicators, orders and restrictions must be monitored and adjusted as necessary


Yellow Phase

Work & Congregate Setting Restrictions

Telework must continue where feasible

Businesses with in-person operations must follow business and building safety orders

Child care facilities can open, providing they comply with guidance

Congregate care and prison restrictions remain in place

Schools are to remain closed for in-person instruction

Social Restrictions

Stay at home orders are lifted

Large gatherings of more than 25 are prohibited

In-person retail is permitted, although curbside and delivery is preferred

Indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities and personal care services (such as gyms, spas, hair salons, nail salons and other entities that provide massage therapy), and all entertainment (such as casinos, theaters) remain closed

Restaurants and bars are limited to carry-out and delivery only


Green Phase

Work & Congregate Setting Restrictions

Lifts the stay at home and business closure orders to allow the economy to strategically reopen while continuing to prioritize public health

Businesses must follow CDC and Pa. Department of Health guidelines

While this phase will facilitate a return to a “new normal,” it will be equally important to continue to monitor public health indicators and adjust orders and restrictions as necessary to ensure the spread of disease remains at a minimum

Social Restrictions

Aggressive mitigation lifted

All individuals must follow CDC and Pa. Department of Health guidelines


Pennsylvania counties that moved from red phase to yellow phase on May 8: Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango and Warren


Pennsylvania counties that will move from red phase to yellow phase on May 15: Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland