DOYLESTOWN >> Bucks County officials met Saturday afternoon, May 9 with representatives of Gov. Tom Wolf’s office and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, pressing their case for the county to be moved into the yellow reopening phase before Wolf’s latest stay-at-home order expires on June 4.
The Skype conference call included County Commissioners Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, Bob Harvie and Gene DiGirolamo, as well as county Health Director Dr. David Damsker, Emergency Services Director Scott T. Forster, Chief Operating Officer Margaret McKevitt, and County Solicitor Joe Khan.
The commissioners said Levine and Wolf’s staff listened to their concerns and understood the commissioners’ request for a date certain for when Bucks County residents and businesses can move into the yellow phase of Wolf’s reopening plan.
Commissioner Marseglia explained the need for communication of that date by Wednesday, May 13, saying, “The citizens of Bucks have been patient and committed to the requirements of a stay-at-home order and use of PPE; now they need to be given the final date so they can prepare for the change, which will involve extensive social distancing requirements.”
The commissioners’ need for clear direction on a date for reopening is best illustrated by the June 2 primary election, Commissioner Marseglia said. If Bucks County and much of Pennsylvania are still under a stay-at-home order through June 4, some voters may not feel safe enough to cast their ballot, she said.
“Voting in person is as social an activity as it gets,” Commissioner Marseglia said. If Bucks County moves to the yellow reopening phase no later than May 31, she said, the commissioners believe voters will have the confidence needed to cast their ballots in person.
“The overwhelming majority of Bucks County has understood and agreed with the unprecedented steps which needed to be taken to contain this virus,” Commissioner Harvie said. “I’m confident that the governor will allow Bucks to move into the ‘yellow’ phase before June 4. But even in the yellow phase there will be restrictions we must abide by, and not every business will be allowed to open. Still, it will be a step forward, and a step closer to normalcy.”
Commissioner DiGirolamo added: “I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the progress we have made to limit community spread here in Bucks County with the Governor’s Office and Dr. Levine. We are looking forward to hearing back from the Governor’s Office by Wednesday, May 13 on a future date that Bucks County can move to the ‘yellow phase’ of reopening along with the 37 other counties in the state that have already done so. I am hopeful that date will be as soon as possible.”
On Friday, Wolf said that 13 more counties in Western Pennsylvania would be allowed to move to the “yellow” phase of his three-tiered reopening plan on Friday, May 15. Those counties are Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.
They will join 24 other counties that were allowed to move Friday from closed “red” status to yellow, meaning most businesses and day cares can open, but must follow strict safety precautions.
Bucks County had 158 new cases reported Friday and Saturday, but those cases continued to show minimal community spread, with only 13 such cases identified over the two-day period.
Sixty-four of the new cases were residents or workers at long-term care facilities, 29 caught the virus from people in their households, and 13 caught it from infected co-workers, the county’s contact tracing determined.
Eleven deaths of people with COVID-19 also were reported over the two-day period, raising the county’s death toll to 311. The decedents ranged in age from 96 to 62, all but two lived in long-term care facilities, and all had underlying health conditions.
A total of 78 deaths of people with coronavirus were reported last week, down 14 from the previous week’s total.
One hundred ninety-five coronavirus patients are hospitalized in Bucks, including 20 in critical condition and on ventilators. A total of 1,015 are confirmed to have recovered.
Statistics, charts and other coronavirus-related information can be found on the county’s data portal: https://covid19-bucksgis.hub.arcgis.com.