Republican Commissioners Preston Boop and Jeff Reber said they will consider moving Union County into the green phase independent of Gov. Tom Wolf, a position opposed by their fellow commissioner, Democrat Stacy Richards.
That Union County wasn’t on Friday's list of 17 counties going green angered Boop, chair of the county board.
Boop criticized the Wolf administration for withholding information specific to where infected persons had been in the county so those areas could be avoided. He said some counties have considered bucking the system and declaring themselves green, and he is considering pushing his fellow commissioners to do the same.
“I’d like to do that. I’m sure there’s consequences with doing that. At some point this has to end. We can’t keep doing this. It has destroyed our economy and it’s going to get worse,” Boop said.
Richards said it'd be the wrong move to go against the state's plan.
“To open our county in defiance of the governor’s order breeds lawlessness and divisiveness when we should be a community that cares about others,” Richards said.
Union County saw its new case count grow by 21 since May 9. That was the date the county moved into yellow status on the state’s three-tiered color-coded system for reopening from the government-imposed shutdown issued in March.
State data shows the Lewisburg ZIP code rose by 11 new cases from Tuesday to Thursday. There were five new negative tests over that same span. According to the data, 28 people tested positive and 119 tested negative in the 17837 ZIP code in total.
Union County’s per capita case rate of 46.7 per 100,000 is nearing the mark of 50, one of several metrics used by the Wolf administration to adjust the county color status. Counties under 50 were considered for a shift from red to yellow this month.
Reber said he was "extremely disappointed" by Wolf’s announcement. He said the citizens of Union County have worked hard and made sacrifices to keep everyone safe from COVID-19 and he believes Union County is ready to go green.
“I would certainly support Union County developing a plan to go green on its own if the governor doesn’t help us get there,” Reber said. “I feel that the county is ready to be green. We have to move forward because I don’t think the governor and secretary of health are using unified standards in choosing who is and who isn’t prepared.”
Richards said the Board of Commissioners must pay attention to the science behind the pandemic and act cautiously. The county is in the yellow phase, “and that means almost everything is open.”
Richards acknowledged businesses like salons and barbershops, restaurants and taverns are closed under yellow but said “those are places where people gather.”
Person-to-person transmission through respiratory droplets is how the novel coronavirus spreads, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I have no problem waiting another week or two,” Richards said, saying time is needed to let vaccine development, testing capacity and contact tracing develop to help avoid loss of life.
According to state data, one Union County resident has died of COVID-19 during the pandemic.