Southwest Pennsylvania residents, along with people living in other sections of the commonwealth, will be the final decision-makers in how quickly regions respond to transitioning through the different phases of reopening from the COVID-19 shutdown, according to Gov. Tom Wolf.
Counties in the southwest, including Cambria and Somerset, moved from stay-at-home red to yellow, which calls for aggressive mitigation, on Friday.
“(Monday) was the first day, for example, Pittsburgh was in the yellow phase,” Wolf said during an online press conference on Monday afternoon. “I talked to the county executive, and he said that actually not very many people were coming into downtown Pittsburgh. And again that gets back to when we get to enforcement issues, the ultimate enforcement is the confidence – or lack of confidence – that ordinary citizens in Pennsylvania feel when they go to a place, a store, or back to work or to school.”
Going to yellow means nonessential businesses can reopen, using social distancing practices and curbside pickup options when available.
“We can do anything we want in terms of snapping our finger and saying we’re going from red to yellow, from yellow to green, but ultimately the decision-makers are the people of Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “And when they decide, as they apparently did (Monday) morning in Pittsburgh that they’re not going to show up, that’s the reality that all of us have to deal with.”
Wolf encouraged citizens to wear masks as a way to protect other residents from the virus when they go into public.
“When I wear a mask, I’m protecting you from getting anything that might come from myself,” Wolf said. “And when you wear a mask, you’re protecting me and everybody else around you.
“If you’re not wearing a mask, you’re being fairly cavalier about protecting the people around you and that includes people you might care about very much.”
Wolf held the press conference with Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Randy Padfield and Col. Frank Montgomery, director of Military Support for the Pennsylvania National Guard.
Padfield said the crisis will be “one of the longest, if not the longest, and most complex response and recovery operations that our agency has ever undertaken.”
“It will require everyone across all response disciplines, levels of government and agencies and organizations working together to address the complex problems that have resulted and will continue to result from this crisis,” Padfield said.
Padfield and Montgomery both discussed issues concerning COVID-19’s impact on nursing homes, which have been hard hit during the pandemic.
When asked if he was seeing improvements in nursing homes, Padfield said, “That’s a very difficult question to answer because it is such a dynamic response. We see improvements in certain nursing homes and there is a different level of intervention that occurs and that is coordinated through the Department of Health.”
Montgomery said the National Guard has been able to “rapidly respond to need and integrate with our agency partners and local governments across the commonwealth” with 1,200 service members dedicated to responding to COVID-19 in nursing homes and other locations.