Local leaders address moving forward in yellow phase of reopening

Lycoming County commissioners provided an update on government operations and what the future holds for local communities Tuesday.

Speaking to the public during a Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce webinar, commissioners noted COVID-19 has posed serious challenges for business owners and other people.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito said he likens the county’s yellow phase designation to a yellow traffic signal — moving cautiously while getting on with the business of living.

“The governor has lifted the stay-at-home order for 24 counties including Lycoming,” he said.

Soon, it’s possible that up to 55 of the state’s 67 counties could be yellow.

He called for residents to use common sense in their daily practices, including following social distancing guidelines and wearing masks while in public.

Commissioner Scott Metzger said state government officials need to provide the real numbers regarding the coronavirus.

“They list positive cases, but the negative numbers are in small print,” he said.

He said he faces sleepless nights worrying about the businesses that have been hurt by COVID-19, and questioned why car dealers, barbers and realtors were forced to shut down their means of living, while many businesses remained open.

“Folks, that’s picking winners and losers in life, and that’s wrong,” he said.

Of the 132 positive coronavirus cases in the county (as of Tuesday), the most were in the western end of the county, according to Metzger.

“We can’t just completely shut down,” he said.

Commissioner Tony Mussare said schools and businesses need to eventually open.

The economy depends on businesses operating, he noted.

Mirabito raised the possibility of using the county’s share of Act 13 funding from natural gas drilling to help businesses.

He noted the challenges of educating students during COVID-19.

While many have internet access and the technology to engage in virtual learning, many others do not have that advantage.

Metzger said county buildings are now open for business, but guidelines are in place to protect people from coronavirus.

Courthouse visitors who don’t have masks can be issued them, and employees are required to follow certain social distancing practicing.

Mirabito said COVID-19 has brought serious social problems such as drug arrests and suicides.

“People, when they are in crisis, will do things they don’t normally do,” he said, noting that some of the leading causes of suicide can be social isolation and financial problems.

He advised those in crisis to reach out to human service agencies.

“We need to try and recognize and help each other,” he said.

Chamber of Commerce President Jason Fink said businesses that are operating can be listed on the website at www.williamsport.org.

“We want people to be aware that Lycoming County is open for business under parameters of yellow,” he said.


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