Governor Wolf has indicated that the counties remaining in “Red” (stay-at-home order) status “are expected to move to Yellow by June 5”. (Yellow means travel restrictions are lifted and most retail businesses can open, with limitations.) All of southeastern PA (including Chester County) is currently Red.

Does it make sense for these counties to move to Yellow under current conditions? Is there a risk for a new surge in Covid-19 cases?

The data on Covid-19 cases suggests it might be better to wait. Wolf had expressed the “goal” of getting the rate of new Covid-19 cases below 50 during a 14-day period, per 100,000 of population in each county, before moving that county out of the Red phase.

That goal is now impossible. I have been working with the daily county-level Covid data from Johns Hopkins University, and it is clear that the governor’s goals will not be met. Given the rate of new cases counties are experiencing, more than a dozen counties will fail to meet that goal.

Chester County is a good example: as of June 1, it already has enough new Covid cases that it would fail the 50-case-per-14-days-per-100,000 goal even if it had zero additional cases by June 6.

Chester County has about 520,000 people. If you do the math, you’ll find it needs to average under 19 new cases per day for 14 days to meet the goal, but it is averaging closer to 50 per day right now.  

And Chester County isn’t the worst. New-case rates in Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties are far higher, but those counties too are expected to move to Yellow by June 5. Wise or not, it looks as though Governor Wolf is bowing to business pressure and allowing counties to reopen more quickly than planned—and perhaps more quickly than is prudent.