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Lycoming County Commissioners ask Wolf to move county into green phase

Lycoming County commissioners have issued a formal request to Gov. Tom Wolf that he move the county from the yellow to green phase.

In a letter sent to the governor dated May 26, the commissioners stated: “The residents of Lycoming County, along with the elected leaders, have recognized the risks associated with COVID-19 and cooperated with the governor’s orders. Lycoming County’s compliance with all state orders is evidenced by extremely limited non-life sustaining business enforcement warnings and absolutely no citations issued by law enforcement.”

Wolf addressed the commissioners’ letter during a Wednesday briefing saying the state evaluated reducing risk of infection and has categorized the county in the yellow phase.

“We keep looking at a whole bunch of things, including the decline in rate,” Wolf said, regarding the county COVID-19 infections and deaths. “What we are looking at is the risk as we see it that this virus is going to infect more people, and create more problems to the safety of citizens there. It is our estimation Lycoming County is not yet ready to go from yellow to green.”

In their letter, commissioners stated: “Lycoming County was fortunate to enter the yellow phase on May 8th. Over the past 14 days we have had an increase of 29 cases that are primarily centralized in one area of our county; in a private nursing home. They currently have 75 resident and 14 employee cases in that facility. The fact that the PADOH (Pennsylvania Health Department of Health) sent a representative to facilitate corrective action at the Jersey Shore ManorCare (JSMC) is met with cautious optimism and hope.”

Commissioners noted that the county is not one of the 18 identified by the governor to move from yellow to green on Friday. They also stated: “We ask that you hear the residents of Lycoming County: they want to reopen in a responsible and safe manner because their future depends on it.”

The letter went on to state that UMPC Susquehanna has no one infected with coronavirus while also noting that the city of Williamsport has had 26 cases over the past 10 weeks. In addition, commissioners listed county death totals at 16.

Commissioners made note of their “overarching concerns” regarding the hardships of people and businesses resulting from the pandemic.

“Many of our businesses are now expressing that due to the extended severe financial impacts they may not be able to reopen unless given that opportunity to reopen immediately. These business’s futures remain uncertain and unhinged, causing extreme fear and anxiety.”

Commissioner Rick Mirabito told the Sun-Gazette Wednesday: “The request is, if we are in compliance with all the requirements to go green. I have been advocating that we follow the science. If the science tells us to go green, then we should go green.”

Mirabito said the decision to go green should be based on the numbers of new coronavirus cases in the past two weeks which the county has met.

“It appears that we have satisfied all the criteria for going green,” he added.

Commissioner Tony Mussare said the green phase designation will allow the county to open up more businesses, including those restaurants so dependent on inside dining.

“We met all his (governor’s) metrics,” Mussare said. “Of course, Jersey Shore is a hot spot. We know that. That should not penalize us from entering green.”

In the meantime, Mussare noted that many businesses are hurting from the pandemic.

“There are still many people who have not collected unemployment checks yet,” he said.

Mussare noted that the Paycheck Protection Program and its payout guidelines have posed issues for many business owners.

Many are still waiting for the money used for payroll and other business expenses, he added.

State Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, whose entire 83rd legislative district is within Lycoming County, said, “I have supported for many, many weeks that we go green simply because the numbers are such that it’s isolated to one area of the county. The rest of the county is good to go.”

Sun-Gazette reporter Mark Maroney contributed to this story.

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