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County’s ‘Move to Green Task Force’ was pushing Wolf before Friday’s announcement

“We are at a moment in time where we must dare to reopen.” The county’s “Move to Green Task Force” wanted to move to the “Green Phase” of Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 mitigation “no later” than June 5.

“Warren County is not inclined to take any other action except in agreement with your administration,” a cover letter for the plan dated May 21 stated. But that’s followed by what amounts to a veiled threat — “continuation of business shutdowns with no attendant increase in cases or risk would require Warren County to explore all its options.”

In the meantime, the governor did announce Friday that Warren County is among the counties transitioning to “green” next Friday, May 29 — a week earlier than the Task Force’s goal in the letter. We will find out in the coming days what “green” means… more specifically.

Here are the members of the task force: State Senator Scott Hutchinson, State Representative Kathy Rapp, the county commissioners – Ben Kafferlin, Tricia Durbin and Jeff Eggleston, Solicitor Nathaniel Schmidt, Dr. Keith Price with Warren General Hospital, Jim Decker with the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, Director of Public Safety Ken McCorrison, County Planner Dan Glotz, Kim Angove listed as a community member and former member of the “Hospital Authority,” Warren County Councilmen John Wortman and Phil Gilbert and Jonie Smitley, infectious control RN with the Department of Public Safety.

“Your administration has made several separate declarations promoting a total of 49 counties to Yellow to date,” the task force concluded. “Hence, we strongly agree with the appropriateness of your preparation of criteria for entry into the Green Phase.”

They allege that the “bodies of knowledge and systems of care which we all hope will convert Covid-19 into a completely managed health condition may not be fully implemented for years” and credited the governor for his willingness to declare public health emergencies, namely the opioid epidemic.

The plan — three “separate stepdown levels” with two to three week intervals — could be used as a model for other counties, they suggest.

“Warren County submits that among all the counties of the Commonwealth, we are in the best position to lead the way for entrance into the ‘Green Phase”‘ of your plan,” they conclude. “We have therefore taken the initiative to present with this letter the set of criteria and protocols to be adhered to during the anticipated ‘Green Phase,’ which we believe best addresses the challenges presented by Covid-19 with sufficient mitigation practices in place.”

Citing the county’s status as the “lowest rate per capita” in case count in the state, the task force stated that “we feel we must now turn to addressing the next most pressing need of our constituents; namely, the opportunity to return to their livelihood for those whose businesses have been unable to operate during the red and yellow phases.”

The task force also credited Wolf’s waiver program for keeping many businesses open and cited data from a recently held town hall meeting that solicited feedback from businesses affected by the shutdown.

“The commissioners have received reports from local law enforcement officials that the amount of opioid and drug activity has increased since the implementation of the stay at home and business shutdown orders,” the report states. “Therefore, the continuation of business shutdown and isolation is exacerbating another publicly declared emergency, namely, the opioid epidemic, which rightfully remains in effect.

“It is our unanimous position, as the elected executive officials of Warren County, that if the Governor decides to extend the Emergency Order beyond June 4, 2020, so as to include Warren County, the governor should: 1. adopt standards of conduct and testing for the Green Phase as set forth or similar to the terms set forth in this proposal; and 2. Promote Warren County to the Green Phase as soon as possible, and no later than June 5, 2020.

“For Warren County, the statistical evidence can lead to no other conclusion.”

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