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This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reveals the structure of the novel coronavirus. The illness caused by this virus is COVID-19.

The phased reopening of Lancaster County’s economy will be tied to the coronavirus caseloads in the Philadelphia region, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday.

But we would have our own challenges under the new criteria, even if we weren’t lumped in with the state’s Southeast region.

Lancaster County is, on its own, nearly three times beyond the threshold for moving from “red” to the partial activity allowed under a “yellow” designation. And the case numbers here took a turn in the wrong direction Friday.

In its daily update, the state department of health reported that Lancaster County had 92 new coronavirus cases, topping our previous one-day record of 83, set on April 18. We had been averaging about 50 new cases Sunday through Thursday.

But let’s get back to that formula for a phased reopening.

A key criteria, Wolf said, is for a region to remain below 50 cases per 100,000 population over a 14-day period before moving from “red” (our current status) to “yellow,” which would allow for limited business and social activity with lots of precautions. (The Wolf administration is separately allowing the construction industry statewide to resume work on May 1 under specific guidelines).

With a population of 545,724 and a 14-day tally of 803 new cases from April 11-24, we were at the 147 mark on Friday, or nearly three times the threshold score of 50 needed to consider a move to “yellow.”

And that “score” isn’t budging very much.

In the past 10 days, our 14-day “score” under the state’s formula rose from 137 on April 14 to 152 on April 20, then fell to 140 on Thursday before bumping back up to 148 on Friday. So our score was actually higher Friday than it was 10 days earlier.

In any case, Wolf and his health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, acknowledged Thursday that the southeastern region of the state — which has recorded some of Pennsylvania’s highest caseloads and per-capita rates — will likely be the last region to resume semi-normal activity under a phased reopening. They gave no estimate of when that might be.

According to The Associated Press, the Southeast region's case rate is about five times above the 50-per-100,000 threshold for a partial reopening. The Northeast is about four times above the threshold, and the Southcentral region, which includes York, Dauphin and nearly a dozen counties to their west, is at around 74 — or only modestly above the threshold of 50.

Friday’s 92 new cases brings Lancaster County’s total to 1,451 since the first cases were recorded here over a month ago. Meanwhile, the county’s coroner, Dr. Stephen Diamantoni, reported that the death count here has risen to 139.


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