A mandatory stay-at-home order enacted by Gov. Tom Wolf in late March to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Lehigh Valley has been extended until June 4 for Northampton, Lehigh and 41 other Pennsylvania counties.
The order was expanded in phases until a statewide stay-at-home order superceded it April 1. That order was originally scheduled to expire April 30, but was extended to May 8. The extended order was due to expire at midnight, which is also when residents of 24 northwestern and north central Pennsylvania counties will be allowed to resume some activities under the yellow–or intermediate–phase of Wolf’s plan to reopen the state.
Wolf and state health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced late Thursday that the 43 counties not transitioning to the yellow phase of the stay-at-home order must remain shut down for the health and safety of residents.
“This strategic phased reopening of the Commonwealth will be done in the most effective, efficient and risk-averse method possible to balance our return to economic stability, while at the same time continuing to keep Pennsylvanians safe by controlling the
spread of disease,” Wolf promised in his amendment extending the stay-at-home order.
Both Wolf’s order and an identical one issued by Levine state that the stay-at-home order will remain unchanged in the red counties until June 4.
Under it, only businesses deemed essential are permitted to operate with restrictions in place, and residents are only supposed to leave home for activities considered “life-sustaining,” such as purchasing groceries, picking up medication or engaging in certain types of recreation. An updated FAQ sheet for businesses under the stay-at-home order as well as its two subsequent (yellow and green) phases can be found here. Guidelines for businesses operating under the order can also be found online.
Throughout April, most Americans were under some form of state-issued stay-at-home order, however as the number of coronavirus cases as well as deaths from the disease have waned, many states have begun to relax restrictions on movement; unprecedented restrictions that have been part of an unprecedented response to the pandemic.
In Pennsylvania, a few of the restrictions that were put into place more than a month ago have been eased over the past week. On May 1, construction was allowed to resume with protections in place for employees. The same day, golf courses and marinas were allowed to reopen, however social distancing guidelines must be followed by golfers and boaters.
In all public places Pennsylvanians are required to maintain a distance of six feet from other individuals as part of the social distancing guidelines that remain in place. Face masks or other types of protective coverings for the nose and mouth must be worn in retail establishments under a statewide order issued by Levine that took effect April 19.
In his news release about the extension of the stay-at-home order, Wolf did offer some hope for residents yearning to move about freely as they haven’t done for six weeks.
“Tomorrow, there will be an announcement of additional counties moving to the yellow phase at a to-be-determined date,” he said.
Whether that is enough to quell rising resentment that led to “Reopen PA” rallies held last month remains to be seen.
As of Thursday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported an additional 1,070 confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 52,915 cases. Since the state began reporting totals two months ago, nearly 3,500 Pennsylvanians have died from COVID-19, with approximately two-thirds of the deaths occuring in nursing homes.
Lehigh County as of Thursday had 3,102 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 111 confirmed deaths while Northampton County had 2,355 confirmed cases and 152 confirmed deaths, per the Department of Health. Both counties are among those most affected by COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, most of which are located in the southeastern part of the state.
As of Thursday there were 46 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 18055 zip code, which includes Hellertown borough and parts of Lower Saucon Township. In the 18015 zip code there were 198 confirmed cases and 13 presumptive positive tests of individuals as of Thursday. The 18015 zip code includes parts of Lower Saucon Township, Upper Saucon Township, Salisbury Township, the City of Bethlehem and Fountain Hill borough.
For additional updates on case totals and other news, follow the department on Twitter.