PENNSYLVANIA — Three counties deemed "red" in Gov. Tom Wolf's color-coded plan to reopen the state during the coronavirus are flouting their designations and planning to open on their own accord.
Officials in Lebanon, Dauphin, and Beaver counties announced they are planning to open back up whether Harrisburg says it's OK to do so or not.
Wolf Friday announced 13 counties will shift from "red" to "yellow" next week. They are Allegheny; Armstrong; Bedford; Blair; Butler; Cambria; Fayette; Fulton; Greene; Indiana; Somerset; Washington; and Westmoreland. Twenty-four counties are already designated as "yellow."
A "yellow" designation means most businesses and day cares can open, but must follow strict safety and social distancing precautions.
Beaver County is the only western Pennsylvania county not included in next week's phase of reopenings.
Beaver County officials said in a new conference Friday that their residents were "prisoners" in their own county and accused Wolf of saying one thing while doing another regarding counties reopening.
They said Wolf's decision to keep Beaver County "red" was based on one outbreak in one county nursing home.
At least 60 people there have succumbed to COVID-19 at Beaver County's Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, as reported by Patch. U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb has called for a federal investigation of the facility.
Looking to Central Pennsylvania, Dauphin County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeff Haste said in a letter published Friday that "enough is enough," and that he has "no faith in Gov. Wolf and [Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel] Levine's ability to do the right thing."
"It is time to reopen the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and return our state to the people (as prescribed by our Constitution) and not run it as a dictatorship," he said. "This decision has ruined the livelihood of millions of hard-working Pennsylvanians in exchange for 0.4 percent of our population. I have great sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. I also have great concern for the families that now have to struggle with financial concerns, mental health stress, addiction and more because of the shutdown. Again, our governor has pitted groups of Pennsylvanians against one another."
And Lebanon County officials said they would move from "red" to "yellow" without the state's approval.
In a letter to the governor, officials said Lebanon County "has met the requirement of your original Stay-at-Home order, which was to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 outbreak and allow hospitals the time to gear up for COVID-19 patients."
"We have heard the pleas of our residents who desire the ability to safely reopen their businesses and safely return to work," the letter reads. "Lebanon County plans to move forward and will require businesses who are ready to reopen to follow CDC guidelines including requirements such as hand washing social distancing and masks until further guidance is received for the county to move to the Green Phase"
Beaver, Dauphin, Lebanon counties plan to reopen under a "yellow" designation on May 15.
"I’d like to emphasize that this plan is not a one-way route. We are closely monitoring the 24 counties in the yellow phase and will re-impose restrictions if danger arises," Wolf said. "Every contact between two people is a new link in the chain of potential transmission. And if the new case count begins to climb in one area, restrictions will need to be imposed to prevent local medical facilities from becoming overwhelmed. So, Pennsylvanians should continue to make good choices."
Wolf Friday said these counties were "taking a chance with the lives of residents," but did not threaten any specific sanctions on them.