Governor Wolf has announced his plan for “reopening” the state, once the level of Covid-19 cases starts declining. There are three phases in the plan: “Red” (which is what we’re currently in), “Yellow” (which relaxes a lot of the restrictions, including the “stay-at-home” rule), and “Green” (which removes all restrictions, but continues various monitoring processes). The timing of the reopening depends in the number of new Covid-19 cases during a 14-day period. When that 14-day count drops below 50 new cases per 100,000 of population, the Yellow phase can begin.
The plan is based on six “regions”, each composed of a group of contiguous counties. We are in the Southeast region, consisting of 8 counties: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, Philadelphia, and Schuylkill. The total population of those counties, by my calculation, is 5.24 million. My spreadsheet says that as long as we have at least 2622 new cases over 14 days in our region, we will stay in the “Red” category.
I haven’t tried to figure out how many new Covid-19 cases there have been over the last 14 days in our whole region, but in just Chester County (where we are) and Delaware County (just to our east), there have been a combined total of 2306 new cases in that period. Given that there are significant numbers in the other six counties, that means our region’s rate is probably several times higher than Governor Wolf’s criterion for loosening restrictions. We can plan on an extended period under the current restrictions, at least in our part of Pennsylvania.
I can’t imagine Kendal relaxing its restrictions much (if at all) until our region of Pennsylvania starts relaxing its restrictions.
When our region finally gets to the “Yellow” phase, that will mean more stores and businesses open. But restaurants and bars will still only be allowed to offer take-out, indoor entertainment and exercise facilities will still be closed, and no gatherings of over 25 people will be allowed.
Once we are in the “Yellow” phase, what if there is an outbreak of new cases? Would we shift back to “Red”? The governor’s announcement does not address that question.
One thing is quite clear: Pennsylvania will not wait for Covid-19 to disappear before the reopening process starts. Nor will it wait for there to be a vaccine or treatment. The state will “reopen” while Covid-19 cases are still cropping up and the disease is still spreading. That means we’ll probably be living with Covid-19 around us for many months to come.