Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs of Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties are moving into the “green” phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan, meaning gyms, salons and some bars and restaurants can reopen and people can gather in larger groups.

These heavily populated regions of Pennsylvania are among the 12 counties that are moving from yellow to green under Wolf’s color-coded reopening system. Eleven of the 12 counties moved to the green zone on Friday.

Philadelphia officials hope to move to the green phase on July 3 if targets for reducing the number of cases are met. The city loosened some restrictions on Friday, permitting salons, barbers and spas to reopen, and small indoor social and religious gatherings of up to 25 people.

In the green zone, colleges, malls, libraries and museums and outdoor recreational activities may also resume. Bars and restaurants may allow indoor dining at reduced capacity. Gatherings of up to 250 people are permitted in green zones.

Theaters, casinos and similar venues can also reopen at reduced capacity under the state’s requirements, but Philadelphia will not yet permit those higher-risk activities.

The move from yellow to green in the 12 counties leaves only Lebanon County in central Pennsylvania — where local GOP leaders reopened early in defiance of the Democratic governor and virus cases have been rising since late May — under tighter pandemic restrictions.

The Wolf administration blamed Republican county officials for voting to open about a month ago.

“Lebanon County’s partisan, politically driven decision to ignore public health experts and reopen prematurely is having severe consequences for the health and safety of county residents,” Wolf’s health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, said in the release. “Case counts have escalated and the county is not yet ready to be reopened. Lebanon County has hindered its progress by reopening too early.”

On Memorial Day, beaches in New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland reopened.

Next Friday on July 3, the day before Americans celebrate Independence Holiday Day on July 4th, Philadelphia goes to the green phase. Indoor shopping malls, gyms, colleges and restaurants will reopen — although social distancing protocols will limit customer capacity.

The Fashion District, formerly known as the Gallery, along with several other malls around the region reopen July 3.

It is critical to the economy that Pennsylvanians return to work, eat at restaurants, and shop.

Nearly 2.8 million Pennsylvanians have sought unemployment benefits since mid-March, including the self-employed, gig workers, freelancers and others who do not typically qualify.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania’s unemployment began sliding down from its pandemic peak in May, even clocking in at below the national rate as payrolls grew by almost 200,000. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 13.1% in May, down 3 percentage points from April’s adjusted rate, the state Department of Labor and Industry said.

As restrictions loosen, it is important that area residents stay safe and reduce their risk of contracting the coronavirus by following public health guidance including wearing a mask in public, washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and practicing social distancing.

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