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Commissioners anticipate reopening to be a slow process

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Lycoming County Courthouse.

Lycoming County today enters the green phase under Gov. Tom Wolf’s statewide plan for reopening communities, but what does that really mean?

“It’s good for the county. We are excited to go green,” Lycoming County Commissioner Scott Metzger said.

County officials, he noted, worked hard to convince Wolf and state officials that it was high time for the county to transition from yellow to green.

However, that does not mean everyone should suddenly let their guard down regarding COVID-19.

“I think it’s important for us to be responsible,” County Commissioner Rick Mirabito said. “We actually want to get to a place where there is no red, yellow or green phase. I believe we can get to that place if we continue with precautions now.”

Metzger said the county and its residents have demonstrated responsible behavior throughout the coronavirus pandemic, a big reason why the county is going green.

For county operations, little will change, at least initially.

“We will do things gradually, safely and responsibly,” Metzger said.

As they’ve done during the pandemic, people in need of government services at the courthouse or other county buildings should first contact the particular department where they seek business.

“Buildings have never totally shut down. We have always had people working inside or from home,” Metzger said. “The courts were very busy. The prothonotary was very busy. People were coming to the courthouse. It was just limited.”

Metzger said restrictions will continue for a while.

Large gatherings of people will not be allowed. No jury trials will be held until at least August.

Preparations were made early on to make buildings safer from coronavirus infections, he noted.

“We have put up safety shields,” he said. “They won’t come down initially.”

Jason Yorks, director of county Resource Management Services, said municipal recycling sites opened up this past week in Montoursville and Old Lycoming Township.

It’s unknown if more sites will open up back up as the county transitions to green, however.

“Some places we may not go back to,” he said. “With the price of recycling, the return on sales of materials isn’t that good. We need to take a gool look at how much of a cost we want to incur.”

Commissioner Tony Mussare said going green won’t make a big difference across the county.

The 50 percent occupancy restriction for restaurants, for example, simply won’t help many of those businesses, he said.

“I am not ecstatic about it,” he said. “The ultimate is to get back to normal.”

He questioned why Centre County was allowed to go green last week and Lycoming was kept in the yellow phase.

Metzger said the governor eventually heeded the message of county officials to go green.

“Our citizens can be responsible,” Metzger said. “The goal is to get back to normal.”

Mirabito said people need to continue following responsible behavior in the way of social distancing and other guidelines for COVID-19.

“I think we have shown as a county that we have the self-discipline,” he said.

Metzger said infection rates in the county have been kept low with just 17 in the past 15 days.

“The goal is to get to ‘no phase,’ not the new normal, but normal,” he said.

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