More Than One-Third of Pa. Counties Set to Reopen
Gov. lifts stay-at-home order for 24 counties in northern part of the state.

The announcement, made by Gov. Wolf on Friday afternoon, provides some anticipated clarity to the governor's three-phased, color-coded plan to open certain regions of the Commonwealth. The administration moved 24 counties from the "red" phase to the "yellow" phase of the governor's plan. This includes 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 counties.

Wolf said on Friday that the "yellow" phase, although a step in the right direction, will be experimental, and will show how Pennsylvanians can best navigate a new normal . Counties that met certain qualitative and quantitative metrics will be allowed to reopen some businesses, including retail shops with curbside or delivery options and childcare centers , and lift stay-at-home orders next Friday. Gatherings will be limited to 25 people, and many coronavirus-related restrictions will remain in place. This includes still requiring schools, gyms, casinos and indoor movie theaters to remain closed as well as encouraging businesses to continue telework options. Restaurants and bars would also still be required to only provide take-out or delivery service in the "yellow" phase.

During the press briefing, Gov. Wolf said that counties in the "yellow" phase should now, more than ever, take personal responsibility for their actions and still practice social distancing "as much as possible" as to not see spikes in new cases. He warned that counties in "yellow" could revert back to the "red" phase if there are increases in new COVID-19 cases. He also suggested that those counties still under the "red" phase should continue mitigation efforts and "aspire" to be like counties who have been moved to "yellow" on Friday.

Guidelines for businesses in the 24 counties permitted to reopen next week will be provided on Monday, May 4. The administration said the guidance is being developed through collaboration with the affected counties, state agencies and other stakeholders. The guidelines will build on current and existing safety orders that were released in April.
Details on testing, contact tracing benchmarks addressed.

Also during Friday's press briefing, the Wolf Administration unveiled some details of testing and contact tracing benchmarks that are vital to the state's reopening plan. Pennsylvania's Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said that a critical part of allowing the first wave of counties to reopen was the availability of expanded testing and tracing of infections. She said that several statistical and public health data metrics were used to determine which counties were eligible to reopen, including health care capacity and availability of personal protective equipment for front line workers, as well as data relating to the number of new cases that exist within a county or region based on overall population.

Dr. Levine said the state will increase testing capacity to ensure that tests are accessible and available for symptomatic Pennsylvanians, and that tests are adaptable to the changing circumstances of the virus. She said testing will be made widely available through partnerships with community resources, such as retail pharmacies and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). Testing will also be made available in long-term care facilities, nursing homes and personal care homes, as well as community-based testing sites, like the one established in Luzerne County.

Many public health experts are sounding the alarm that any plan to reopen states and communities must include vastly expanded testing and rigorous contact tracing standards to prevent future outbreaks. And many are saying that Pennsylvania needs more contact tracers to adequately investigate coronavirus cases.

The governor said that there is no set timeline or frequency for when other counties might move from "red" to "yellow" phases, or even when "yellow" counties could move into the third, and final "green" phase. He did indicate, however, that counties in the southwest and southcentral regions of the Commonwealth, could be considered soon.

Friday was also the date in which the state would begin loosening restrictions for all construction projects and certain outdoor recreational activities that follow state-issued guidelines on social distancing and other disease mitigation efforts.
Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported more than 1,200 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the state total to 46,971. In addition, 2,354 Pennsylvanians have died from complications from the virus. To date, there have been more than 180,000 negative cases across the state.

Gov. Tom Wolf is still asking all Pennsylvanians who must leave their homes for life-essential reasons to wear a mask to help stop the spread of the virus . An executive order was issued on April 15 requiring customers entering a place of business to wear a mask.

Daily COVID-19 update for Ohio

The Ohio Department of Health reported 18,743 cumulative cases of COVID-19 and 1,002 deaths, including probable cases, by Thursday afternoon. There have been 3,634 hospitalizations and 1,056 ICU admissions.

As previously reported, Gov. Mike DeWine is requiring all employees and customers entering a place of business to wear a facial covering.
Other News...
Phila. could include 'gig workers' in new paid sick leave policies. Philadelphia City Council may take up legislation that would expand the city’s paid sick leave law for city employees working during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would extend to all workers in the city, including those considered " gig workers" and those working for companies with fewer than 10 employees.

UPMC to provide coronavirus antibody tests on patients. UPMC announced on Thursday that it will soon begin to administer coronavirus antibody tests on all patients within the health system. The health system is already using an antibody test to screen potential donors who could be eligible to donate blood plasma, which is being used to attempt to treat the coronavirus.

Many Americans still wary about resuming 'normal life' amid COVID-19 crisis. Even as Pennsylvania, and many other states across the country, implement plans to reopen, nearly half of Americans say they will be uneasy in returning to public spaces until the coronavirus outbreak is treated, according to a national CBS poll. Locally, according to Pittsburgh's TribLive, about 7,300 respondents to a poll they conducted, only 48 percent said they’ll feel comfortable with loosened restrictions in Southwest Pennsylvania come May 8.

Pa. budget amid COVID-19 will prove tricky but Gov. Wolf still hopeful to achieve priorities. Facing what some project to be a $5 billion hole in the state's budget, legislators and the governor's office are set to face a very difficult budget. These new challenges, forced on the state by the COVID-19 crisis, will be tricky to navigate, but Gov. Tom Wolf said this week that he is still hopeful that many of the priorities he set in February are still achievable during this difficult time.
Unprecedented times, but McNees is here to help
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Capitol Buzz will do its best to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible as to local, state and federal actions relating to the virus.

As we have stated in previous editions, for those businesses seeking guidance or assistance on how to proceed during this unprecedented time, please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group , or for government relations and nonprofit consulting assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG) .

You can also visit the McNees COVID-19 Article & Resource Page for more information on various legal and political issues created by the novel coronavirus.

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit .

The Senate stands in recess until the call of the President Pro Tempore

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The House stands adjourned until Monday, May 4 at 1:00 p.m.

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