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State reps: Green phase will be safe

The much-awaited green phase should be safe, though it may bring new challenges, said local representatives.

Residents are smart and are now educated on dangers of COVID-19, business owners and their customers alike will work to keep themselves safe, they said.

“I don’t think (Lycoming County) is going to go green and people are going to flood out and start doing stuff,” Rep. Garth D. Everett, R-Pennsdale, said “Until there is a vaccine, there’s going to be continued cases, it hasn’t gone away.”

There is more information available to people, however, which should inform their decisions.

“We know a lot about it since March when we had our first case in Pennsylvania,” he said. “We know who it affects, we know about how it’s transmitted. We know it’s our senior citizens and folks who have other kinds of conditions that are the most affected by it.”

Rep. Jeff C. Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, said he had no concern that the green phase in the county could bring travelers from the south, in counties that still remain in the yellow phase, such as Union, Northumberland and Columbia.

“It’s because of the simple fact that we’re Americans,” he said. “We have common sense and American business men and women can be trusted to do the right thing and it’s up to them to protect their customers”

Those conducting business or transporting goods still traveled during the stay-at-home order and nothing will change as restrictions are lifted, he said.

Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said the economic shutdown will be studied for many years to come.

“I don’t think we’re ever going back to yellow, I don’t think the people would stand for it,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve shut down the healthy people to protect the sick people.”

The public knows where the cases are, and how to keep themselves safe, he said.

Should anyone contract COVID-19, however, Everett said the local hospitals have been “geared up” for the coronavirus and will be ready to handle any influx.

The green phase will bring a new wave of freedom for business owners to conduct their transactions on their own terms, particularly with respect to the mandated use of masks, said Everett.

Similar to some businesses posting signs that read “no shirt, no shoes, no service,” shops, stores, and others will be able to decline or accept service to those without masks, he said.

This should have come much sooner, said Wheeland.

“Government can’t get that far down in the weeds to tell business owners specifically what to do,” he said. “Government should be advertising best practices and allowing business owners to apply them.”

Wheeland said business owners should constantly be checking the statuses and requests for new or amended procedures to follow.

“I think that’s critical,” he said. “I would assume that they will be modified quite frequently as data emerges.”

All the representatives agreed that most business owners will follow the green phase mandates.

“Having guidelines out there is no different than the speed limit. Most of the people within reasonable variation comply with the speed limit, they don’t stray too far from it,” said Yaw. “Everything we do in our society is voluntary compliance, I think people will follow them.”

The state simply doesn’t have enough manpower to enforce the governor’s orders, he said.

Everett said many business owners were threatening to open during the county’s red phase because they were frustrated that they were forced to close, but now that they are able to open in some capacity, they’ll cooperate.

“I think most people are willing to abide by the standards. For most businesses its not that hard to do it,” he said.

Although many of the restrictions seemed to be easily accommodated, especially by businesses that primarily operate by-appointment, the state congressmen said restaurants may still have difficulty in their operations.

“I’ve had a number of restaurants contact me when they saw the green rules and said, ‘I just don’t know how it’s going to go,” said Everett.

For restaurants with larger floor space, it may not be an issue aside from limited accommodation, but smaller eateries may struggle to make a profit after paying the wait staff.

Beyond that, the representatives said they had already begun pushing for Gov. Tom Wolf to outline the next phase. So far there has been no information pertaining to the criteria that phase will require or the restrictions it will relax.

“Green is better than yellow but I don’t think that’s where the commonwealth could be,” said Everett. “I think we need to have an approach that looks more to what regions are like.”

Wheeland said he believed in Lycoming County residents’ ability to do what is right, regardless of mandates.

“The public will abide with whatever the establishment requires. The business owners want the freedom to do what is best for their employees and customers, they don’t need the government telling them, they need the government advising them,” he reiterated.

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