Yellow phase still brings restrictions

Gov. Tom Wolf announced that Philadelphia will be allowed to move into the first phase of his coronavirus reopening plan on June 5.
PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Yellow means proceed with caution.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday that Philadelphia and its surrounding counties will be allowed to move into the first phase of his coronavirus reopening plan June 5, though life will still be far from normal.

Gyms, spas, barber shops, nail salons, massage parlors, casinos and theaters will still be subject to shutdown orders. Restaurants and bars will still only be able to offer takeout.

Retail stores will be able to reopen but will be required to follow strict guidelines similar to measures currently being enforced at grocery stores. Child care centers can also resume operations.

All companies that can conduct their business remotely should continue doing so, according to Wolf’s plan.

The stay-at-home order will be lifted, allowing residents to legally leave their homes for nonessential purposes. Gatherings of more than 25 people will still be prohibited.

Catholic churches in the region will reopen for Mass June 6. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said it is working with health officials on guidance to provide to priests.

Wolf’s plan calls for a county to be moved to the less-restricted “green phase” if COVID-19 cases haven’t spiked for two weeks.

Mayor Jim Kenney said the city would release specific guidance later this week on how the yellow phase will be handled in Philadelphia.

“The next two weeks are critical—if we see a spike in cases it will jeopardize any hope we have of beginning to reopen,” Kenney warned in a statement Friday.

Philadelphia recorded 407 new coronavirus cases Monday and two additional deaths, reflecting two-day totals since the city does not release numbers on Sundays.

It’s still far above the governor’s benchmark for moving to the yellow phase, which local officials have said would equate to 50 cases a day in the city.

Wolf’s office, in a statement, said infection rate isn’t necessarily the determining factor. Officials said the state also looked at hospitalizations and contact tracing and testing capability.

“My stay-at-home order did exactly what it was intended to do: It saved lives and it bought us valuable time,” the governor said.

Kenney, in a statement reacting to Wolf’s announcement, struck a cautious tone. He thanked residents for their cooperation but said the work isn’t over yet.

“We successfully flattened the curve to prevent a hospital surge, and we undoubtedly slowed the spread of COVID-19 and saved many lives,” Kenney said. “But as we move to the next stage of the response, I need to remind Philadelphians that we are not yet out of the woods. The virus is still very present in our communities.”

Philadelphia’s COVID-19-related death toll stands at 1,235, and a total of 21,641 people have caught the virus. About 900 coronavirus patients are being treated at hospitals in the region, including 446 in the city.

Once southeastern Pennsylvania moves into the yellow phase, no counties in the state will be subject to the stay-at-home order and red phase restrictions. State officials on Monday reported 473 additional positive tests and 15 fatalities.

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