As more Pennsylvania counties shed restrictions, possible coronavirus outbreak in Erie County

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Friday that 12 more Pennsylvania counties will move to the 'green phase' of the state's reopening plan.

However, that announcement was shadowed by Wolf's announcement that officials are monitoring a possible outbreak of coronavirus in Erie County.

Wolf said while cases are declining statewide, Erie is seeing both an increase in case counts as well as an increase in the percent of positive tests.

"This is a concern," Wolf said. "In fact, this is a concern to our epidemiologists, who believe an outbreak is occurring as we speak in Erie County."

RELATED: Suburban Pa. restaurants get their outside seating ready for diners as yellow phase begins

Wolf said while he understands Erie County residents are eager to move to the green phase of his reopening plan, the situation must be contained.

To that end, Wolf said the state is providing six contact tracers to Erie's health department.

"We're going to give them as much help as we can to help them move forward safely and quickly," Wolf said.

Meanwhile, 12 more counties will move to the green phase on Friday, June 12. Those counties are: Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Northumberland, Union, Wayne, Wyoming and York counties.

Those counties join 34 others already in the green phase, which is the least restrictive of Gov. Wolf's three-step pandemic reopening plan.

That means gyms, barbers and hair salons can reopen, as can indoor dining at restaurants and bars.

Gatherings of up to 250 people are allowed, although large demonstrations over the past week around Pennsylvania protesting police brutality routinely exceeded 250 people.

Meanwhile, nearly 6 million people in Philadelphia and nine other counties in hard-hit southeastern Pennsylvania became the last in the state Friday to shed the tightest restrictions under Wolf's reopening plan. That includes the stay-at-home order that is part of the red phase.

RELATED: Southeastern Pennsylvania moves to yellow phase: here's what you should know

Gatherings in the yellow phase are still limited to 25 people.

However, even in the green phase, businesses are required to maintain social distancing measures, including requiring customers and employees to wear masks, and to limit capacity.

Wolf administration officials haven't said when those requirements would lift, but Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine suggested that they may remain in place until there is a safe and effective vaccine that is widely available.

The pandemic in Pennsylvania has infected more than 74,000, including 443 new cases reported by the state Department of Health on Friday. It has killed nearly 5,900, including 69 more deaths reported Friday by the department.

In the meantime, roughly 2.4 million people, including the self-employed, have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March, when the effects of Wolf's coronavirus-related emergency shutdowns began to take effect.
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