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Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

Wolf Backpedals on Regional Pennsylvania Map Being Used in Coronavirus Decisions

wolf extends coronavirus stay at home order schuylkill county
(Photo: Office of the Governor)

Map? What map?

That’s been the response from the Wolf administration the last couple days. They’re talking about the regional map they originally said would be used to determine what parts of Pennsylvania go from “Red” to “Yellow” as the state begins to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic response.

Remember, that’s the map we learned was originally drawn in the 1960s and never changed. It’s the same map they used to identify what regions in Pennsylvania they were looking to phase into “Yellow” first, starting May 8.

Well, now, they’re saying to ignore the map. They’re not going to use it and it won’t be the sole factor in determining what parts of Pennsylvania go from “Red” to “Yellow”.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Suggests Regional Map Won’t Determine What Parts of State Re-Open First

Many in Schuylkill County were not happy with our inclusion in the Southeast part of Pennsylvania. That lumps us in with noted Chinese virus hotspots like Philadelphia and Berks County.

So, after we got ourselves all in a lather over this map, we learn that it really doesn’t matter if we’re in the Southeast or the Northeast or the Northwest, for that matter.

We went to State Sen. Dave Argall for some clarification. Argall tells us that counties will be judged individually and not based on a regional basis. At least, that’s what he thinks now based on the Governor’s latest comments.

He told The Canary, “My understanding is that our local employers will be able to safely reopen when the PA Department of Health believes that conditions have improved in their county. The decisions will be made according to the conditions in the county, not according to some artificial “district” or “region” and based upon the local number of COVID-19 cases.”

As of April 29, the state says there are 343 positive cases of Chinese virus in Schuylkill County. And 5 people locally have died from complications caused by the virus.

But that’s not the only factor, the state says now. It’ll depend on other factors, too. Are hospitals prepared to handle any potential spike in cases? Is there enough testing available nearby? And then there’s the creepy contact tracing that regulators and the Wolf administration keep discussing.

That map, though? It’s complete garbage. And the Wolf administration is trying to socially distance itself from that map as quickly as possible. We, by the way, aren’t the only county that groused at the idea of being placed in the wrong region.

After the map was released, every media outlet tapped the person they felt was best at math to figure out the confusing metric that was supposed to determine when a region went from “Red” to “Yellow”. Then everyone wanted to know if this figure meant that a county could “re-open” or if they had to wait for the hottest spot in their region to reach the proper threshold.

Counties? Regions? Which Is It?

Pennsylvania Health Sec. Rachel Levine piled on the confusion during Tuesday’s virtual press briefing. When asked about the metric, she said, “It’ll be in the counties and the counties form a region. But I don’t want to emphasize this metric too much. We’ll be looking at those counties and we’ll be looking at the regions. Those are our health care regions. But we’re not going to be held to any particular schema. That was there so people would understand what the regions would look like.”

Confused yet?

Gov. Wolf piled on the confusion earlier Tuesday by saying that counties could be considered for going from “Red” to “Yellow” independent of the region they were placed on that map 60 years ago.

In a conference call with the media on Tuesday, Wolf said, “We’re looking at making common sense decisions here as to when to open and we will certainly try to be as logical and rational as possible.”

Argall added that the Governor’s responses lately “are a mess.”

“I am hopeful that this will allow many of our employees and employers to safely return to work in many of our rural counties in the near future,” he said.

Can Schuylkill County Re-Open on May 8?

So, we’ll find out on Friday if Schuylkill County has reached the Governor’s secretive threshold for going from Red to Yellow. Trying to figure it out based on case numbers — which are largely misleading and questionably accurate — is pointless. He’ll decide on his own whether it’s safe enough to get back to our lives and livelihoods. And it doesn’t seem, at this point, there’s a damn thing we can do about it.

Whatever decision he reaches on Schuylkill County Friday will be met with resistance.

If he says we have to wait longer, that’s going to fire up a lot of people who’ve been put out of work, don’t know where meals will come from and how they’ll pay bills. Should the Governor actually decide to allow Schuylkill County to re-open in the Yellow phase, there will be a group who believes it’s too soon.

But we’re starting to think those people won’t be satisfied until there are 0 cases for weeks or months or believe that some magic bullet cure can be created even though it’s never been done before.


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