Wolf gets more specific on color-coded plan to get Pa. from 'stop' to 'go'

UPDATED: April 23, 2:40 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Gov. Tom Wolf said counties in the state's north-central and northwestern regions could reopen first, as he unveiled on Wednesday a color-coded plan to get businesses up and running again.

During an evening media briefing, Wolf said reawakening the state's economy  as cases of COVID-19 decline would be broken up into three phases, like a traffic light: red, yellow and green. 

The entire state is in red now. A stay-at-home order is in place with only essential businesses open.

Tonight, I’m announcing our plan to slowly reopen Pennsylvania.We will use a measured, scientific approach. We will not just be flipping a switch to go from closed to open.And, ultimately, #COVID19 will set the timeline.There will be three phases: red, yellow, and green. pic.twitter.com/NahiYrKovo

— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) April 22, 2020  

Moving forward, Wolf says, regions of the state with lower counts of COVID-19 cases can go to yellow.

“The initial benchmark we’re setting is for the population to have an average of less than 50 cases per 100,000 individuals over the course of 14 days in order to return to work,” Wolf said. “But we’re also gonna need to look at areas like testing rates, the ability to investigate cases, contact tracing capabilities and proximity to high-risk settings.”

The target date for northwest and north central Pennsylvania is May 8.

We are now studying conditions in the north-central and northwest regions with a target of moving from red to yellow on May 8.Additional monitoring will take place and direction will be provided in the next week.More information on our criteria ⬇️ https://t.co/5Jy9QTzEjv

— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) April 22, 2020

“This yellow phase will lift some restrictions, including parts of the business-closure order,” Wolf said. “The phase will continue to limit high-risk activities."

For example, retail shops and child-care places could reopen — with protections in place for workers and customers — but not gyms or movie theaters. 

Schools would stay closed and gatherings of 25 or more would be forbidden. 

Businesses would need to allow for telecommuting or obey worker safety guidelines. 

Restaurants would still be restricted to delivery or pick-up for orders. 

The governor did not have an answer when asked about businesses such as barbershops and hair salons.

Wolf said, for much of the state, including the Philadelphia region, there is no timetable.

“If Southeast Pennsylvania continues to be a concern, reopening will be slower there than places where the case counts have been low,” Wolf said.

The green stage, when most businesses can reopen again, would include lifting the remaining parts of the stay-at-home orders, but still require residents to follow CDC and state Department of Heath guidelines, the governor said.

In other words, wearing a face mask may still be required for some time even after businesses are reopened.

Wolf reiterated that virus will ultimately dictate the timeline. He warned that target dates may be pushed back, and regions might be required to close up again in the event of a new outbreak of coronavirus cases.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution in his plan, and decisions will be guided by conditions on the ground in a specific county and a testing program, which state health officials are still developing. What’s best for Philadelphia may not be the same for places like Cameron County, he noted.

“We don’t want to say, ‘OK, because you’re part of a state that includes places like Philadelphia, we’re going to make sure that you are also under strict orders to stay at home.’ I think Pennsylvania is big enough and diverse enough that we can actually do this in a phased and reasonable way,” he added.

“We haven’t decided where we’re going to do this, but I’m pretty sure the southeastern part of the state will be among the last places to reopen.”


KYW Newsradio's Antionette Lee, Mark Abrams and Tim Jimenez contributed to this report.