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Gov. Wolf: More counties will be moved into yellow phase Friday, and some may even go into green

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Gov. Tom Wolf will move more counties into the yellow phase of reopening from his coronavirus pandemic restrictions Friday, and some counties might even be moving into the green phase, he said during a media call Thursday.

“I’ll be announcing a whole range of counties tomorrow moving from red to yellow and the hope is that we’ll also be making some [announcements about] counties that might even be moving from yellow to green tomorrow,” Wolf said.

Wolf has made most of his announcements about moving counties on Fridays.

As of Friday, 49 of the 67 counties will be in the yellow phase. The 18 still in red will be Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon and Lebanon in the southcentral region; Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Northampton and Pike in the northeast region; and the entire southeast region of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, Philadelphia and Schuylkill counties.

It seems unlikely that any counties in the hard-hit southeast region would move to yellow. However, it’s possible that Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon and Lebanon counties could be in line for movement.

Officials in Dauphin and Lebanon counties have been especially outspoken in wanting to move to yellow.

“The governor’s decision today to keep Dauphin, Lebanon and Lancaster counties shut down while neighboring counties begin to reopen is nothing more than political payback,” Jeff Haste, chairman of the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners said last Friday. “Rather than listen to the people of Pennsylvania, he pits groups of people against each other and puts out misleading data to back up his cause. We’ve heard from hundreds of residents and business owners that the time to reopen is now.”

Haste and Pries are both Republicans. Wolf is a Democrat. Wolf said last Friday that "politics has nothing to do with this" as far as decisions about moving counties to the yellow phase.

However, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said last Friday that Dauphin County was not close to moving into the yellow phase.

“The same metrics that we looked at in terms of Beaver County, which had decreasing rates of infection, did not show positive results in terms of Dauphin County. Dauphin County still has significant rates of infection as well as evidence of community transmission and spread of COVID-19. In fact, in the last week actually, the numbers have gone up somewhat,” she said.

Lebanon County commissioners last Friday approved a resolution to advance from the red phase to the yellow phase of Wolf’s reopening plan. That county is not on Wolf's yellow phase list, however.

On May 15, Wolf announced that Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Wayne, and York counties will move to the yellow phase May 22.

On May 15, 13 counties moved into the yellow phase: Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.

That follows the 24 that moved there 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.

Wolf has said that if counties that have moved into the yellow phase see flare-ups in coronavirus cases or other causes for concern that they could be moved back to the red phase. However, Wolf said Friday he hasn’t seen any counties that are in that situation.

“We’re always looking at the data to make sure that we’re doing the right thing and trying to keep people safe,” he said.

Wolf said he and the state Department of Health use metrics to make decisions, including a Carnegie Mellon University model and models from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Washington.

"We continue to try to figure out ways to refine that, make that better and more transparent," he said.

He said he plans to renew in early June the state's disaster declaration for the pandemic. Wolf signed a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency for the COVID-19 outbreak March 6. They last for 90 days, but can be ended before the entire 90 days.

"I will renew it. That's my intention. As to whether it remains in place for the entire 90-day period this next round, I can't say at this point," he said.