Pennsylvania’s Plan to Reopen: What the Different Stages Mean
June 5, 2020
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has instructed residents and businesses to observe shelter-at-home and reduced operation orders since mid-March, but the state is now slowly starting to embark on its reopening process. Several counties have moved from the ‘red phase’ to the ‘yellow phase,’ and some have even made it all the way to green. Locals hope the Philadelphia area will soon join the ranks of counties with decreased restrictions, as the city expects to move into yellow in early June.
Altogether, there are three phases in place to battle the Coronavirus: red, yellow, and green. Certain work, congregate settings, and social restrictions accompany each one. To learn more about the different phases, take a look at our brief breakdown of all three below.
The Red Phase
The red phase is the most restrictive of all three stages. Most Pennsylvanian counties have moved from the red to yellow phase, but because of its population size and urban, dense setting, Philadelphia still remains in the red zone. To prevent the virus from spreading even more, the red phase requires that residents observe a variety of rules. Some of the main ones are:
- Only life-sustaining businesses (e.g. pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations) can remain open
- Disallowing all in-person instruction in schools and the majority of childcare facilities to remain closed
- Stay-at-home orders in place, which means encouraging travel only for life-sustaining purposes
- Prohibition of large social gatherings
- Bars and restaurants may only offer takeout and delivery – no dine in – options, and:
- Restrictions in place for congregate care (like skilled nursing homes, group homes, childcare institutions, and residential treatment centers) as well as prison facilities
Data indicates that Coronavirus spreads primarily through respiratory droplets, or liquids that infected people produce when they cough, sneeze, or speak. The virus can also spread through other forms of close contact, such as by touching or shaking hands, in addition to touching objects or surfaces on which the virus is present. The red phase aims to aggressively reduce unnecessary, potentially dangerous contact between people in order to prevent rapid transmission rates of COVID-19.
During the yellow phase, the rules are slightly less rigid. The state observes counties that move from the red phase to yellow very closely for increased COVID risks, such as acute outbreaks. The observation period usually lasts about 14 days and so long as the risks do not increase, the counties can then expect to move into the green phase fairly quickly.
During the yellow stage, the following rules apply:
- Remote work must continue where possible, and businesses that resume in-person operations must follow certain business and building safety orders (as laid out by the Governor’s office). For example, businesses that resume in-person operations can only operate at 50% capacity.
- Childcare centers can open, so long as they comply with state guidance measures
- Schools may resume in-person operations in strict accordance with the Department of Education’s requirements
- Social gatherings larger than 25 persons are not permitted
- In-person retail is allowed, but delivery and curbside options remain preferable
- Indoor recreation, wellness, and health facilities, as well as personal care providers (e.g. massage therapy centers, gyms, spas, hair, and nail salons) and entertainment centers, like theaters and casinos, must remain closed
- Restaurants and bars allowed to provide outdoor dining options (with certain rules for capacity) in addition to delivery and takeout services
All businesses have to comply with the Department of Health (DOH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that pertain to social distancing and sanitation.
The Green Phase
So long as counties do not experience an influx in Coronvirus cases after entering the yellow stage, they should move to the green phase. The green phase eases most of the restrictions laid out by the red and yellow phases. Here are some important examples of how:
- Continued telework (working from home) is still advised, but businesses can resume in-person operations
- Business that were open for in-person operations during the yellow phase and were operating at 50% capacity may move up to 75%
- Child care centers can reopen, so long as they comply with guidelines
- Prison and hospital restrictions to be determined by individual facilities
- Schools are subject to CDC guidance, as well as guidance from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- Gatherings of more than 250 persons are prohibited
- Restaurants and bars can open at 50% occupancy
- Indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities, personal care services, and entertainment centers may open at 50% occupancy. Encourage appointments instead of walk-ins.
- All residential and commercial construction may return to full capacity, so long as employers continue to implement state and federal safety and health protocols
Always remember to take the proper precautions to combat the risks related to COVID-19. As Pennsylvania begins to relax its work, congregate setting, and social distancing rules, it is also critical that residents stay informed. Learn more about the red, yellow, and green phases and what they mean both personally and professionally. If you have a legal question or concern, please contact a representative at our firm online who can assist you now.
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