Pa. coronavirus recovery: Unemployment rate dips; Gov. Wolf says Philly-area can go ‘green’ on June 26

In this Tuesday, March 17, 2020, photo, a lone shopping cart sits in an empty parking lot near a shopping mall closed due to coronavirus concerns in Pottsville, Pa. (Jacqueline Dormer/Republican-Herald via AP)

In this Tuesday, March 17, 2020, photo, a lone shopping cart sits in an empty parking lot near a shopping mall closed due to coronavirus concerns in Pottsville, Pa. (Jacqueline Dormer/Republican-Herald via AP)

As of Friday, Pennsylvania’s health department recorded 526 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 85,207 There are 6,399 total deaths attributed to COVID-19, an increase of 38 deaths.

Philadelphia and the surrounding suburban counties — some of the hardest-hit areas in the state — will move into the “green” phase of Pennsylvania’s color-coded reopening plan on June 26, Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Friday.

In addition to Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties will move from yellow to green.

The list also includes Lehigh, Northampton, Eerie, Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Berks and Lancaster counties.

“It’s a testament to the many residents and businesses that have sacrificed over the past three months to stay home and adhere to the guidance the state has provided to protect lives and livelihoods. As we begin to reopen, I urge everyone to stay alert and continue to follow social distancing to maintain the momentum of mitigation we have in place,” said Wolf in a statement.

Only Lebanon County in central Pennsylvania will remain in the yellow phase of the plan next week. The Wolf administration, in a news release, blamed Republican leadership in the county for voting to open roughly a month ago.

“Lebanon County’s partisan, politically driven decision to ignore public health experts and reopen prematurely is having severe consequences for the health and safety of county residents,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement.

“Case counts have escalated and the county is not yet ready to be reopened. Lebanon County has hindered its progress by reopening too early. Because of this irresponsible decision, Lebanon County residents are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Wednesday the city is planning to move to the green phase of its reopening on July 3, though a short list of businesses and activities could be permitted to resume on June 26.

The list includes residential swimming pools, private swim clubs, small indoor gatherings, as well as beauty salons and barbershops.

If the city does move to the green phase in July, certain “high-risk” activities would still be prohibited at first. In a departure from state guidelines, large outdoor events, casinos, indoor conferences and conventions, and adult daycares would reopen at different times based on individual risk, said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

The list of activities that will resume during the city’s green phase include gyms, indoor dining with occupancy restrictions, indoor shopping malls and museums.

On Friday, the city reported 118 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 24,841. Nine more people died from the virus, bringing the total to 1,522.

City officials say they want to see fewer than 80 cases a day before moving into the green stage of the city’s plan, among other metrics.

As of Friday, 54 counties in Pennsylvania will be in the green and 13 in the yellow.

Phillies confirm outbreak of COVID-19

Five Phillies players who were training at the team’s facility in Clearwather, Fla. recently tested positive for COVID-19, the franchise announced on Friday.

Three staff members also tested positive for the virus.

The first confirmed case came on Tuesday.

None of the eight people, who have not been named, have been hospitalized.

“The Phillies are committed to the health and welfare of our players, coaches and staff as our highest priority, and as a result of these confirmed tests, all facilities in the Clearwater have been closed indefinitely to all players, coaches and staff and remain closed until medical authorities are confident that the virus is under control and our facilities are disinfected,” said Managing Partner John Middleton in a statement.

A total of 32 staff members and players, both minor and major league, living in Clearwater are in the process of being tested and are awaiting results.

The team said it’s “too early to know” what impact the outbreak will have on the 2020 season.

Florida has seen a spike in positive cases of COVID-19 since the state moved to phase 2 of its reopening plan.

On Friday, health officials reported 3,822 new positive cases – the highest daily total for the state since the start of the pandemic.

Pa. unemployment rate declines, but still much higher than normal

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dipped to 13.1% in May, but remains more than double the rate recorded in March, according to state data released Friday.

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Pennsylvania, the state’s unemployment rate soared to 16.1% in April. It was 6% in March.

Over the course of May, the state’s civilian labor force — the estimated number of residents working or looking for work — was up 23,000. Unemployment declined by 188,000

Pennsylvania’s total nonfarm jobs were up 198,300 over the month — the largest single-month increase on record, according to the state’s Department of Labor & Industry.

Construction got the biggest boost, increasing by 77,400. The total represents more than two-thirds of the sector’s March and April losses.

Under the state’s color-coded reopening plan, some construction was initially deemed non-essential. Gov. Tom Wolf lifted that temporary freeze on May 1, a week before parts of the state moved into the “yellow” stage of reopening.

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