Re-OpenPA Rally at State Capitol

State Rep. Russ Diamond-R, Lebanon, speaks at a ReOpenPA Rally at the state Capitol in Harrisburg on Monday April 20, 2020. Diamond is an outspoken opponent of the state's mask mandate.

Update: York and Adams county officials sent separate letters to Gov. Wolf requesting that their counties be allowed to transition from red to yellow on May 15. Franklin County officials said they will be moving to yellow Friday, May 15. 

Lebanon County will begin reopening next Friday, May 15, even though the state still has the county in the red phase at least until June 4. And Dauphin County officials indicated they want to reopen as well.

Officials and lawmakers representing Lebanon County sent Gov. Tom Wolf's administration a letter Friday outlining their intention.

"We have heard the pleas of our residents who desire the ability to safely re-open their businesses and safely return to work," the letter said in part. "Lebanon County plans to move forward and will require businesses who are ready to re-open 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."

The letter, signed by state Sen. Dave Arnold, representatives Russ Diamond, Frank Ryan and Sue Helm, two county commissioners and other 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 being admitted to the ICU and in need of ventilators."

Lyndsay Kensinger, Wolf's press secretary, said the governor understands the pressure the pandemic has caused people, businesses and the economy, but added: "Prematurely opening up counties, however, will result in unnecessary death, and not just the loss of jobs."

And in a tweet, Dauphin County commissioners Chairman Jeff Haste indicated the county wanted to reopen. And in another tweet, Dauphin Commissioner Mike Pries said: "Dauphin County will be joining Lebanon County and move to Phase Yellow." 

"Enough is enough. 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," the letter said. 

"Allow our businesses and communities to reopen," it continued.

Over the past 14 days, Lebanon County had 222 new cases of coronavirus. So with its population of 141,793, its "score" Friday was 157 per 100,000 people over 14 days — or more than three times above Wolf's requirement of no more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people over 14 days.

By comparison, Lancaster's score Friday was 123, or lower than Lebanon's, based on 671 new cases in Lancaster County over 14 days and population of 545,724.

Dauphin County, with a population of 278,299, had 296 new cases over 14 days, giving it a score of 106 per 100,000, or twice the threshold set by Wolf for reopening.

Lebanon County's district attorney said she won't prosecute businesses that reopen, so long as they comply with appropriate restrictions.

"Through mandates and Orders, Governor Wolf assumed control of an individual’s personal choices. He dictates how we dress, where we go, and what commerce operates for our ‘well-being.’ Effectively the Governor’s Orders revoked our personal freedoms and liberties as individuals," Pier Hess Graf said in a news release posted on the office's Facebook page.

Officials in Adams and York counties asked the administration Friday to move them to the yellow phase immediately, saying they meet criteria.

Franklin County officials sent a letter to Gov. Wolf Saturday, according to a Facebook post shared by State Representative Rob Kauffman.