In late April, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s office rolled out a color coded scheme for reopening the state, including Philadelphia. The plan – which has become synonymous with graded lifting of restrictions – has seen a number of counties emerge from strict social distancing guidelines. On May 22nd twelve more counties have shifted to the yellow stage; to date, this leaves around 60% of Pennsylvanians (largely in the east of the state) under a “red” lockdown.
The plan works exactly like it sounds: the color red denotes the most limiting stage (including stay-at-home orders), through to yellow (which permits many businesses to reopen in line with social distancing guidelines) and green (under which most measures are lifted).
But whether you live in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, it’s important to understand the differences, and what they mean for your day-to-day life. The plan distinguishes between many kinds of businesses and operations: while some non-essential retail businesses may be able to operate under “yellow” restrictions, others may have to hold out for “green.”
This is all the more important in the weeks and months to come, as restrictions are gradually lifted around the state, and Pennsylvanians are once again permitted to travel around the state for work, recreation, and for family purposes.
In fact, a handful of counties in Pennsylvania’s north (including Tioga, Bradford, and Potter) have officially shifted to green in recent weeks, flagging the beginning of what Governor Wolf called “a loosening of restrictions that will allow more businesses to reopen with safety guidance in place.”
The following description lays out what is and isn’t allowed under the various steps, and lists associated gubernatorial orders.
RED – “Stay at Home Order”
Essential businesses, which are classed as “life-sustaining” are allowed: including drug and grocery stores. Residents are instructed to stay at home. Large gatherings are prohibited. Travel is restricted to “life-sustaining” purposes. Restaurants are limited to takeout. Schools cannot have in-person instruction. Child care centers are closed.
YELLOW – “Aggressive Mitigation”
Businesses can reopen in person, but must follow social distancing guidelines. Telecommuting is encouraged where possible. Retail stores may reopen, but are encouraged to curbside pickup or delivery is preferred.Hairdressers, nail salons and massage therapists must remain closed. ‘Stay at home’ orders will be lifted, but social distancing and PPE are still recommended. Gatherings of under 25 people are allowed. Child care facilities may reopen, assuming a formal worker/child safety plan (in writing). Recreational team sports remain prohibited.Schools remain closed. Gyms, theaters, casinos, and most entertainment venues remain closed
GREEN – “CDC & PA Dept. of Health Guidelines”
Under the ‘green’ phase, most businesses are allowed to reopen, assuming they operate in a responsible manner and take care to encourage social distancing where possible. This includes youth clubs, recreational sports facilities, and hairdressing salons. However, all individuals and organizations are asked to follow directions from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Philadelphia Department of Health. These are subject to change, and may reinstitute any of the above-cited restrictions.