Republican leaders of Adams County are urging Gov. Tom Wolf to move Adams County to the yellow phase of reopening immediately.
A letter to Wolf signed by Sen. Doug Mastriano, Rep. Dan Moul, Rep. Torren Ecker and County Commissioners Randy Phiel and Jim Martin states “according to all previously identified measurables made by you and your Secretary of Health, Adams County falls well within all indices and metrics.”
To enter the yellow phase, counties have to meet benchmarks set by the state, which include 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 they’re considering.
The administration is also using a tool 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 fewer than 25 people.
Gyms, spas, hair and nail salons, casinos, and theaters must remain closed, and 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.
“Since our hospital systems began testing for COVID-19 in March, we have performed more than 1,900 tests. Of those tested, 154 individuals tested positive for COVID-19 in a county with a population of 103,000. We have suffered 5 fatalities,” the letter reads. “Since April 24, 2020, Adams County has averaged 3.14 cases per day with a total of 44 new cases. Based on the 50 cases over 14 days per 100,000 people metric, Adams County must have less than 52 cases within that 14-day period. We clearly meet this criteria.”
The elected officials tell Wolf in the letter they have a goal of saving lives while ensuring the health system does not become overwhelmed.
“We believe based on the science, data, and the help of our trusted medical professionals and health care systems, we have met that goal,” the letter reads. “Now, we must move into the next phase of response during this crisis which is to safely re-open up our economy. Based on the feedback we have received, Adams Countians are ready to move forward safely, intelligently and responsibly into the ‘yellow’ phase.”
The elected officials tell the governor in the letter they have worked with local hospital systems to ensure they have adequate personal protective equipment, bed capacity, ventilator capacity, and testing capacity.
“Based on the information provided by these hospital systems, our county is properly prepared to test and care for current and future COVID-19 patients,” according to the letter.
Ecker said in an interview Friday afternoon the elected officials started working together this week in anticipation of Wolf’s announcement of which counties would move to the yellow phase.
“We had suspicion that Adams was not going to be on the list of counties that was going to be reopened today,” Ecker said.
He said he has been consistently hearing from constituents who believe it is time to reopen Adams County.
“Naturally, our offices’ phones and emails have been non-stop,” Ecker said. “There was a transition of anger, terror and everything else.”
Ecker said he has not had the opportunity to speak to Wolf but has sent several letters advocating for reopening.
“That’s really our only mechanism to talk to the governor, honestly,” Ecker said.
Republican legislators are not kept in the loop or sought for counsel before Wolf makes a decision, said Ecker.
“Our notice is pretty much the same as you guys get,” Ecker said of press releases sent to the media.
Rep. John Joyce, R-13, expressed similar sentiments.
“Even as the majority of counties in PA-13 proceed into the yellow phase, I continue to call on Governor Wolf to be forthcoming and transparent about the metrics that other counties must meet to re-open,” Joyce said in a statement. “The Pennsylvanians who remain under a stay-at-home order, including the residents of Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and Huntingdon Counties, deserve to know why they cannot re-open.”
Democratic Commissioner Marty Qually said Friday he was unaware of the letter until contacted by the Gettysburg Times.
“While I can agree with the intent of the letter sent by Adams County Republican leadership, I cannot support all of their conclusions. Everyday I feel the pain of local businesses forced to remain closed out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our most vulnerable residents,” Qually said. “We have all been forced to make difficult decisions. I do not envy Governor Wolf or Secretary Levine’s position in having to create statewide or regional policies in the face of this changing pandemic. Up until today, I was under the impression that the board of commissioners was unanimous in our belief that a regional approach, while not ideal for county businesses, was appropriate given our regionalized workforce and shared industries.”
Qually said he wishes both parties would come together for a solution.
“Frankly, I believe that had Governor Wolf opened the state too soon, state Republican leadership would have crucified him for every single death,” Qually said. “They rarely, if ever, have agreed with the policies coming from his administration. There was a time when Americans worked together in times of crisis.”