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Lawmakers: What phase means remains ‘unclear’

As Lycoming County and many surrounding rural counties begin to open more business and activity under Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan, an important step is being taken to return to life as it was lived before COVID-19.

Restrictions will remain in place with social distancing guidelines continuing as the area transitions beginning today from the red to yellow phase.

“I think some people will be disappointed that yellow won’t bring significant changes,” state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said.

Yaw said it’s a bit unclear at this point how most people will be impacted.

“I think what he (Wolf) wants to do is social distancing,” he said. “Stay at home. Avoid large crowds.”

State Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, said he has a hard time understanding what yellow really means for most people.

“I will be honest. What is the difference between red and yellow?” he said. “Is it just social distancing? Obviously, there is no longer a stay-at-home order.”

A clear guideline for the yellow phase is a restriction of 25 or more people gathered in any one place, Wheeland noted.

He said he’s unclear exactly what is meant by language in the governor’s plan such as “aggressive mitigation” as some restrictions end.

“I think what that means is the stay-at-home order is lifted, but people need to be cognizant,” state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Pennsdale said. “We should continue to wear masks, wash our hands, practice safe distancing. Things are not over.”

Restaurant dining will remain closed to customers, he noted. However, outdoors dining at eateries is an activity that should be allowed provided safe distancing is followed.

“You might see a little of that,” he said.

Everett called the yellow phase “a nice step forward.”

Yaw said the bigger change will come when the county and others

transition from yellow to green to end more restrictions.

Right now, he noted, the county is well within the standards for qualifying for yellow phase.

“We know where the problems are and hopefully that’s where we’re going to concentrate our efforts,” he said.

Each of the lawmakers said they were hoping to hear more directives from Wolf on the transition to yellow.

Wheeland said he’s busy this week preparing his district office, which has been closed to the public, for a reopening.

“I am following guidelines on cleaning the district office. I just finished putting up a sneeze guard so I can reopen. The cleaning folks are doing what they need to do so that we can reopen safely,” he said.

Wheeland said he can reach out to his constituents more efficiently with a physical office location open to the public. Up until now, his staff has been working from home.

“When you work remotely you can’t get signatures or copies for documents,” he said. “I think it’s time for the government to trust the citizenry to do the right thing. It would be my recommendation that those folks that have underlying health issues continue to quarantine and follow government guidelines. If we all do that, we will go green sooner.”

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