Montour and Snyder counties will be among the first 17 counties that will be shifting into Gov. Tom Wolf's "green" phase the governor announced on Friday.
Gov. Wolf said Friday he is easing some pandemic restrictions in Philadelphia and the heavily populated suburbs on June 5, while lifting them almost entirely in 17 rural counties next week as Pennsylvania continues to emerge from a shutdown imposed nearly two months ago to help slow the spread of the new virus.
The counties will shift into the "green" phase on May 29, according to Wolf.
Wolf announced the first batch of counties moving to “green," the least restrictive phase of his reopening plan including Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren counties.
Northumberland and Union counties are not among the list going into the final phase of reopening.
According to data provided daily by the state Department of Health, Montour County has had just two new confirmed cases of COVID-19 since April 16 and no deaths. Snyder County had its first two cases since April 28 confirmed on Friday.
Northumberland County has had 155 total cases since the state began tracking data, while Union County has seen 61. Over the past two weeks, Northumberland County has had 36 new cases and Union County has had 21 new cases.
Evangelical Community Hospital President and CEO Kendra Aucker said in a statement following the announcement it is important to remember that positive cases of COVID-19 are still being diagnosed daily.
“We are supportive of the phased reopening of the state and the economic benefits that will follow,” Aucker said. “But as a Hospital, our driving force is caring for the medical needs of the community. The virus is still active in this area. Safety measures will remain in place at the Hospital to ensure we are able to care for both our COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.”
In deciding which counties to move to yellow, the state used risk-based metrics from Carnegie Mellon University combined with contact tracing and testing capability and a sustained reduction in COVID-19 hospitalizations. While the 50 new cases per 100,000 population was considered, it did not weigh any more heavily than other factors.
Over the past two weeks:
- The state has seen sustained reductions in hospitalizations. From May 8 when the first counties moved to yellow to yesterday, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized dropped by nearly one thousand – from 2,618 to 1,667.
- The number of COVID patients on ventilators shrank by about a third, from 505 to 347.
- New cases continue to decline: From May 8 to May 15, the state added 6,384 cases and from May 15 to 21, added 4,770.
- The current COVID-19 incidence rate in the state is 83.4 cases per 100,000 people. Two weeks ago, it was 113.6 per 100,000. Most other states are seeing their new case rate continue to increase or remain flat. Pennsylvania is one of just 19 states with new case-rate declines.
Counties that have been in the yellow phase for the requisite 14 days have been closely monitored for the risk associated with transitioning to the green phase.
In the green phase, we will continue to take precautions, including reducing building capacity, encouraging teleworking, limiting visitation in certain high-risk environments, and preventing large entertainment gatherings.
The guidelines for moving to green are available here, and include specifics for employers, large events, and social gatherings.
This is a developing story. More details will be posted when they become available.