By: Felipe Rivas
2 min read May 2020 — Along the East Coast, states are phasing in the reopening of their respective economies after weeks of economic inactivity as a result of the coronavirus. In the Northeast, Pennsylvania is the latest state to begin the battle of balancing public health and economic recovery by partially opening 24 counties along the northwest and north-central regions of the state beginning Friday. Most notable during this process, Philadelphia County, a major economic driver for the state and its most populous county, will remain shut down. Across the Delaware Valley, New Jersey remains in a health battle as Gov. Phil Murphy extended his shelter in place order for another 30 days.
“Over the past two months, Pennsylvanians in every corner of our commonwealth have acted collectively to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a press release. “We have seen our new case numbers stabilize statewide and while we still have areas where outbreaks are occurring, we also have many areas that have few or no new cases.” The 24 counties reopening on Friday 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 to move to a reopening because of low per-capita case counts, the ability to conduct contact tracing and testing, and appropriate population density to contain community spread, according to the governor’s office.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney says he’s “not going to sacrifice people’s lives” in reopening the city too soon during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to local news sources. Kenney said there is no timetable as to when the city will open. “You can’t set a timeline. The timeline is what the virus dictates. We certainly have targeted things we’d like to see happen, but unless the data indicates that it’s safe, then it’s not safe,” Kenney said, according to CBS 3 Philly.
Gov. Wolf urged citizens to adhere to all social distancing and health guidelines. “Every human-to-human contact is a chance for the virus to spread, so more contacts mean a higher likelihood of an outbreak,” 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. So, Pennsylvanians living in a county that has been moved to the yellow category should continue to strongly consider the impact of their actions.”
In New Jersey, Gov. Murphy erred on the side of caution, as the state continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. “I want to make it absolutely clear that this action does not mean that we are seeing anything in the data which would pause our path forward, and it should not be interpreted by anyone to mean we are going to be tightening any of the restrictions currently in place. These declarations, unless extended, expire after 30 days,” Murphy said.
No formal timeline was given as to when the economy will reopen. In the meantime, Murphy urged residents to continue to observe all social distancing and health guidelines. “If this extension of the public health emergency signals one thing, it is this: we can’t give up one bit on the one thing that we know that is working in this fight, social distancing,” Murphy said. “Remember, in the absence of either a vaccine, or proven therapeutics for COVID-19 specifically, our only cure is social distancing, covering our faces, washing our hands with soap etc. And we know, by the way, that the effort of millions in this state is working. We have made enormous strides, folks, unlike any American state. Let’s keep it that way.”