CLEARFIELD – Clearfield County has the “green” light to move into the final phase of the coronavirus (COVID-19) reopening process next Friday.
The announcement was made by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf during a virtual press briefing and social media livestream Friday afternoon.
The county was among the first 24 Pennsylvania counties that moved from red to yellow phase May 8, and it’s been in the yellow phase for the past two weeks.
Any county moving into a new phase of the reopening process receives notice one week in advance. So, Clearfield will move to the green phase May 29.
Since entering the yellow phase, the county has had only nine new virus cases, and the total case count has remained steady since May 14.
As of 12 a.m. Friday, the county has had 33 positive cases and zero deaths, while 918 patients have tested negative for the virus since the start of the pandemic.
The county has a population of nearly 80,000 residents, meaning roughly 0.04 percent have contracted the coronavirus (COVID-19) since March.
The governor has been following a color-coded – red-yellow-green – three-phased process to gradually reopen the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
In the yellow phase, some county businesses previously designated as non-life-sustaining were able to reopen, including retail, though curb-side pick-up was more preferable.
Public gatherings larger than 25 people were prohibited and restaurants, bars., etc. had to remain closed for dine-in services but were able to offer take-out and delivery.
In the green phase, Clearfield County will return to “near normalcy” with some restrictions still in place to prevent occurrences and transmission of the virus.
While all businesses may resume operations, many will have to operate at a reduced capacity or telework and additional guidance will be released next week by the governor’s office.
Large entertainment gatherings, like concerts, festivals, etc., will continue to be restricted, though graduation plans will be up to local school officials.
People can have social gatherings of more than 25 people, if they so choose, but they must practice social distancing.
Nursing home visitation will remain restricted and hospitals and prisons may also restrict visitation to a case-by-case basis, if necessary.
In the green phase, guidance issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) must still be strictly followed.
“This is certainly great news,” Commissioner Chairman Tony Scotto said, “[because] the restrictions have been impacting many of our businesses, especially our small businesses.
“Clearfield County’s economy thrives from small businesses, and with restrictions being lifted, it will now give them a chance to survive.”
Scotto said though the virus still poses a deadly threat, he believes the citizens of Clearfield will be responsible and follow the recommended public safety guidance.
Commissioner John A. Sobel concurred, saying now citizens can start taking their lives back. He also said this is a reminder of the importance of rural Pennsylvania to the commonwealth.
“When the contagion attacked our cities, it quickly brought them to their knees, despite all of their perceived power of science and technology,” Sobel said.
“… In the rural areas, we were able to check the progress of the virus by being able to spread out and practice social distancing in the open air, unlike our crowded cities.
“We have been able to flatten the curve and buy precious time for a vaccine to be developed. We still have to be very careful for a while; however, it still serves as a paean to our rural world.”
Commissioner Dave Glass said the county received its green light because of its residents. “Your sacrifice and commitment to each other’s safety allowed us to get to the ‘green phase’ next week.
“I know everyone is excited to get back to ‘normal,’ but I urge all residents to continue to follow recommended precautions.
“With no treatment and no vaccine, we are still susceptible to a second wave from COVID-19. Let’s do our part to make sure we never have to lock down here again.”
The PA Post contributed to this article.