A Glimmer of Hope: Counties Going From Red to Yellow
May 20, 2020
The fallout from the COVID-19 Pandemic has had a far-reaching effect beyond the illness it causes. It has uprooted people’s lives financially, mentally and physically due to the shutdown affecting many states, including Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Wolf has instituted three phases in the state: red – only essential activities or businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies can be open, gatherings of only 10 or less people while following CDC and state guidelines; yellow – essential activity continues, some businesses and activities can open up while following CDC and State guidelines and gatherings of 25 or less people and green- opening up of all activities and businesses while following CDC and State guidelines. As of May 14, Susquehanna and Wayne counties were in the red phase, despite having low case amounts and deaths per population and guidelines set by the state. That caused a lot of frustration. So much so, Al Bisner, Hallstead, put together a rally against Susquehanna County not moving forward. It was held on May 11, in conjunction with a press conference given by the Susquehanna County Commissioners in Montrose. “It’s not right what’s happening. I wanted our voices heard. My sister-in-law’s restaurant closed, my dad, brother and cousin lost their jobs. We have bad leadership (Wolf). I was in the Army and fought for other countries’ freedoms. I am fighting for ours,” he said. Pastor Tim Madden, Cornerstone Baptist Church, Browndale, Wayne County, felt passionate about the rally and lended support by speaking at the rally, “I am seeing a huge injustice. Big box stores are functioning. It’s personal. People I shepherd. Friends, neighbors that are not able to take care of their families. Multi-generational businesses that will go under. I grew up with relatives who had small businesses. They put their blood, sweat and tears into them,” he said. Commissioners from both Susquehanna and Wayne County said they understood the plight of their residents and respectfully asked the governor to move their counties into the yellow phase since they met the criteria instead of rebelling and opening up on their own.
A shift occurred on May 15 when the governor announced that both counties would be included in the next round of counties going into the yellow phase on May 22. Susquehanna County Commissioner Alan Hall said, “It’s a step in the right direction.” When asked if he thought the rally helped with the decision, he said no. “No, the rally didn’t help. The press conference, thousands of emails, letters and articles in the papers did. I am happy the rally didn’t detract from it. The rally didn’t put the county in a good light.” Wayne County Commissioners issued a statement thanking Governor Wolf, state representatives, economic and chamber partners, health care professionals and the business community. “All have combined to work as a team with the best interests of Wayne County at
heart. We also want to thank our residents and visitors who have adhered to protocols and guidance and helped us get to this point,” they said.
On the Village Green in Montrose, Sarah Rudock said it was wonderful news. “Freedom over fear. They are using scare tactics. I’m not saying there isn’t a virus. If everyone washes their hands and uses common sense, it will be good,” she said. While Valerie S. is happy about the news, she said she is concerned about politicians actions and the future. “We have a totalitarian government in the state. I am very disappointed in our representatives. They missed the ball. What they tell voters doesn’t match up with what they do in Harrisburg. The previous representatives and senators gave the governor the sole right for the disaster declaration. Government is never run best with one person in charge. All people are fallible. I am very concerned about the rising debt. The implications it will cause in the next decade. We need to be more autonomous in our funding so we aren’t backed into a corner again. My main concern is that the county will move back to red if it spikes again,” she said.
Madden said he heard the news after giving the prayer at the ReOpen PA Rally in Harrisburg. “At first I felt immediate relief knowing the freedoms we would want to have again. A little later I thought, this is not over. There are so many people in our community with businesses, especially restaurants that are still suffering. I believe the rally in Montrose definitely helped the cause. Not only did it receive regional attention, it was on the national news as well. It definitely gave me some satisfaction for all the people who were there to support the endeavor.” Bisner could not be reached for comment.