Allegheny County is not among the first counties in Pennsylvania that will be able to start loosening some COVID-19 restrictions.
Gov. Tom Wolf has announced that starting Fri. May 8, a total of 24 counties in the northwest and north-central regions of the state--none in the Pittsburgh region--may move from the high-alert "red" phase of crisis response to the cautious "yellow" phase of the state’s planned gradual reopening process.
The counties are Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango and Warren.
These counties were deemed ready because of low per-capita case counts, the ability to conduct contact tracing and testing, and appropriate population density to contain community spread.
"If outbreaks do occur, we will move those areas back from yellow to red," state Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said during a press conference May 1.
Allegheny County, including South Fayette Township, remains under the governor’s stay-at-home order until further notice and will be considered for some reopening activities in the next several weeks.
Dr. Levine said a major obstacle to reopening Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh region is the area’s high population density.
State leaders partnered with Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh to create a Risk-Based Decision Support Tool that enables decision makers to balance economic benefit with public health risk, according a press release from the governor’s office.
The yellow phase includes easing some restrictions on work and social interactions while continuing to limit gatherings, maintain social distancing and wear masks. Specific guidance will be issued on May 4 for the counties that are moving to the yellow phase May 8.
In general, yellow phase guidelines include:
Work & Group Restrictions
- Remote working must continue where possible
- Businesses with in-person operations must follow business and building safety orders
- Child care open, complying with guidance
- Congregate care and prison restrictions in place
- Schools remain closed for in-person instruction
- Stay-at-home order lifted
- Large gatherings of more than 25 prohibited; no organized sports
- In-person retail allowable, with curbside and delivery preferable
- Indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities and personal care services (such as gyms, spas, hair salons, nail salons and other entities that provide massage therapy), and all entertainment (such as casinos, theaters), remain closed
- Restaurants and bars limited to carry-out and delivery only
“Every human-to-human contact is a chance for the virus to spread, so more contacts mean a higher likelihood of an outbreak,” Gov. Wolf said.
“If we see an outbreak occur in one of the communities that has been moved to yellow, we will need to take swift action and revert to the red category until the new case count falls again," he said. "So, Pennsylvanians living in a county that has been moved to the yellow category should continue to strongly consider the impact of their actions."