For the first time in more than two months, there will be reporters in the press room Friday for the daily coronavirus briefing by Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.
Each Friday in May, Wolf has announced which counties would move to a new color phase in reopening. Cambria, Somerset, Blair and Bedford counties appear to meet the criteria for a move from yellow to green.
Corner Coffee Shoppe owner John Riccilli is trying not to get his hopes up.
“It's been a letdown every Friday,” Riccilli said Thursday.
The Richland Township restaurant has added delivery service, stepped up its social media activity and held special events for curbside sales, but is still operating at about one-third its normal sales.
On Wednesday, Levine said counties that have been in the yellow phase for two weeks and maintained low infection rates for COVID-19 will be eligible to move to the green phase.
Cambria and Somerset counties have been in the yellow phase since May 15 and continue to have new infection rates well below the 50 cases per 100,000 population previously used by the Department of Health.
Cambria has added 18 cases in two weeks, for a rate of 13.6 per 100,000. and Somerset has added just five cases, for a rate of 6.8 per 100,000.
Tom Chernisky, Cambria commissioners chairman, said the county has urged Wolf to move the region to green.
“The data and facts support that it is time to reopen the economy of Cambria County,” Chernisky said. “A public health crisis has created an economic crisis where businesses are struggling. Businesses are suffering. They were not created to be closed for an extended period of time.
“There can be a balance of opening businesses – and protecting the public. We can open businesses and continue to be smart with precautions.”
Many businesses are preparing to reopen, while protecting customers, said Amy Bradley, president and CEO of Cambria Regional Chamber.
“We at the chamber are hopeful that Cambria County and our surrounding counties will soon move to green,” Bradley said. “I think our community can be commended for having done a really good job with social distancing and staying home at crucial times. We will all still need to continue to follow the Department of Health and (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines to ensure that we are keeping our employees and customers safe.
“I know our business community is eager to open up and get back to business. The chamber is launching a green ribbon campaign called 'ready, set, open!' This campaign will allow chamber businesses to celebrate their reopening and draw attention to it with posters, green ribbons and lots of positive social media.”
Ron Aldom, executive director of Somerset County Chamber of Commerce, said businesses are ready to comply by any rules, but the county's outdoor summer recreation season must begin soon.
Most expect Somerset to be moved to the green phase next week, he said.
“I think it's the right decision, by far,” Aldom said. “The businesses have been ready for this. People have been abiding by the rules. It's senseless not to move us to that level.”
Riccilli said the Corner Coffee Shoppe has hired additional employees with an eye on reopening, using a state loan program. But he's concerned about limitations on the number of customers.
“We're hoping to be fully open by the end of June,” he said. “We need 100%.”