Gov. Tom Wolf said his administration will come out with more specific guidelines as the state’s first counties are poised to enter the green phase of his plan to reopen the state.

The governor and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine talked about the efforts to stem the spread of the virus in a news conference Tuesday morning.

Wolf and Levine both hailed the decline in new cases seen across the commonwealth, which enables restrictions to be eased.

“Our case count continues to trend downward,” Wolf said Tuesday.

Wolf has moved to gradually reopen Pennsylvania after imposing restrictions on businesses and routine activities to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The plan has three phases: red, yellow and green.

You can watch it here.

More tests, fewer new cases

The governor hailed the state’s improved testing ability. Wolf said the state conducted more than 80,000 tests in the past week, up from about 50,000 tests weekly last month.

Statewide, Levine said an estimated 61 percent of those who have been infected have recovered.

Levine said new cases are dropping, with less than 500 new cases reported Tuesday. She said the decline in new cases is especially encouraging, because the state is doing more testing.

Wolf hailed residents for doing their part, either by social distancing or wearing masks.

“People like you are taking precautions and keeping yourself and your communities safe,” Wolf said.

“I thank each and every one of you for doing your part,” he added.

Going yellow and green

Levine was asked about large gatherings in the green zone, such as wedding receptions. Levine said more guidance on the green zone would be coming this week, as the first counties will soon enter that phase this week.

The health secretary said while guidance will be coming, she said very large events such as concerts are likely to still be prohibited.

Wolf said his administration continues to work with pro sports leagues to talk about how sporting events can resume. Earlier today, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said pro sports teams in the Garden State can begin training camps.

On Friday, eight counties will move into the yellow phase of the Wolf administration’s plan to reopen the state. Here are the counties heading to yellow: Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, and Schuylkill. With those counties, 57 counties will be in the yellow phase on Friday.

In addition, the first counties will enter the green phase – the least restrictive phase – on Friday. These counties will go green: Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango, and Warren counties.

Wolf said Tuesday Centre County would also go green. Centre County officials initially indicated they wanted to wait but reversed course and the governor indicated the county, home to Penn State’s main campus, would enter the green phase Friday.

The governor said last week he anticipates the remaining red counties will be lifted from the stay-at-home order by June 5. They include Philadelphia and its surrounding counties, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery; Berks; Lancaster; and Lackawanna.

Even as restrictions are eased, Levine said residents still should take appropriate precautions.

“COVID-19 is still a risk,” Levine said, adding there is still “community spread” of the coronavirus.

Across Pennsylvania, more than 68,000 people have contracted the coronavirus and more than 5,100 deaths have been tied to COVID-19. About two-thirds of those deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

Syndrome affecting kids

Levine urged parents to be aware of the symptoms of a rare but serious illness affecting kids that appears to be tied to COVID-19.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent an alert of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, often called MIS-C. Several cases have been found in Pennsylvania, Levine said. The condition is very rare, but has been deadly in some cases, the CDC has said. Some children with the illness have also had the virus that causes COVID-19, the CDC has said.

Symptoms include persistent fever, vomiting, red eyes, fatigue and abdominal pain, Levine said. It’s unclear how it is transmitted or if this syndrome can affect adults.

“There is rather limited information about this condition,” Levine said.

State budget

Wolf said the administration is working with lawmakers on a state budget. State lawmakers are hoping to complete work on a partial year budget this week.

The governor was asked about the status of budget negotiations.

“I hope we get to a conclusion fairly quickly,” Wolf said.

Wolf said he wants to work with lawmakers on finding a spending plan that pays for essential services, despite the staggering drop in revenue due to much of the economy shutting down.

Pa. primary

Wolf was asked if counties are prepared to handle the mail-in ballots for the primary election on June 2.

The governor said the hope is that voting by mail will be a “healthier” option for Pennsylvanians. Wolf said as more voters cast ballots by mail, it could lead to some higher costs.

The deadline to apply for a vote by mail ballot is 5 p.m. today. You can get an application online.

Media access

The governor said he hopes to do his first live press conference since mid-March – with reporters in the room – on Friday. He’s done conference calls and streamed news conferences where questions have been read by a moderator.

Wolf said many state workers the yellow zone will continue to work from home, so fulfilling requests for information under the state’s open records law may still be difficult.

Media organizations and government watchdogs have pressed the governor to respond to requests for information under the state’s “right-to-know” law but those requests are not being fulfilled due to the coronavirus crisis, the administration has said.

Coronavirus reopening Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf’s red, yellow and green phases reopening Pennsylvania after coronavirus-related shutdowns in 2020.
(Graphic via the governor’s office.)

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