Cynthia Fernandez/Spotlight PA
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HARRISBURG — State officials will allow 13 counties in the Pittsburgh region to ease coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and residents, a coveted step toward reopening that took effect Friday in much of northwest and north-central Pennsylvania.
Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to announce that Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties will be able to move into the “yellow phase” of his tiered reopening plan on May 15, an administration official said.
They will join 24 counties that were previously given the go-ahead to loosen some restrictions.
Not included in Friday’s announcement is Beaver County, where a COVID-19 outbreak inside a long-term care facility has left at least 58 people dead. U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D., Allegheny) is calling for a federal investigation.
In March, Wolf shuttered much of the state’s economy and began ordering residents to stay at home in an effort to mitigate the coronavirus. This week, Wolf extended his stay-at-home and business closure orders until at least June 4 for the rest of the state.
To enter the yellow phase, counties have to meet benchmarks set by the Department of Health. That includes ramping up testing and contact tracing in order to identify and quarantine new cases before they become outbreaks. State officials also set a target for counties to see fewer than 50 new confirmed cases per 100,000 people in a two week period, though they’ve emphasized that’s just one measure.
The administration is also using a model developed by Carnegie Mellon University to decide which regions can ease restrictions.
In the yellow phase, the stay-at-home order for residents is lifted, although they must still follow federal and state guidelines for social distancing and limit gatherings to less than 25 people.
Gyms, spas, hair and nail salons, casinos, and theaters must remain closed, while restaurants can still only offer carry-out and delivery. Other businesses can resume in-person services, though companies that can telework must continue to do so.
This story will be updated.