Northampton Press

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Northampton County moving to green

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 by PAUL FOX Special to The Press in Local News

What will life in Lehigh Valley look like in this phase?

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced June 19 that Northampton County will move into the green phase June 26, along with 11 other counties that were moved to the yellow phase earlier this month.

Neighboring Lehigh County will also advance to the green phase.

While in the yellow phase, counties are monitored on the following four criteria, all of which must be met before moving to the green phase. The county must be actively monitoring contacts of confirmed cases. They must record stable, decreasing or low confirmed case counts for the past two weeks as compared to the two weeks prior. The positivity rate for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests must be less than 10 percent in the past 14 days, and hospital bed use must be 90 percent or lower per district population.

Since all but one of the remaining yellow phase counties in the state met these requirements, they will be moved to green. Lebanon County will remain in the yellow phase.

While the move to green means many more businesses and activities can resume, it does not signal a total return to normal life. As such, masks are still required when entering any business, and large gatherings are still limited to no more than 250 people.

The state still strongly recommends people continue to work remotely as much as possible, but in-person operation is permitted as long as the business adheres to the state’s guidelines for operation.

These guidelines — which can be found on the governor’s website, governor.pa.gov — primarily focus on businesses regularly cleaning frequently touched surfaces and formulating a plan “in case the business is exposed to a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.”

Child care will similarly be allowed to resume, given compliance with guidance.

For businesses allowed to operate at 50-percent occupancy in the yellow phase, the move to green means occupancy can be increased to 75 percent. For restaurants and bars — which were only allowed outdoor dining or curbside pickup during yellow — indoor dining will be permitted at 50-percent occupancy.

Several other business categories may also open at 50-percent occupancy, including personal care, indoor recreation and entertainment. Salons, spas, barbershops and gyms can all open at 50-percent occupancy, with the state strongly encouraging a move to appointment-only business. Entertainment includes casinos, theaters and shopping malls.

Construction activity, which resumed with limited capacity and strict guidelines in early May, may return to full capacity during the green phase, as long as new safety protocols are maintained.

Schools will still remain subject to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state, so the move to green does not yet give any definitive answers to what the return to school will look like this fall.

As always, the state will continue to monitor the trends and spread of the virus and adjust restrictions as time goes on.