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State Reps reinforce Schuylkill County is ready

State representatives agree that Schuylkill County is ready to move into the next phase.

Schuylkill County officials sent two letters to Gov. Tom Wolf last week - one which was sent on May 7 contained 18 signatures supporting Schuylkill County to enter the “yellow phase” of reopening.

Among the signers were many legislative leaders, leaders of nonprofits, the president of the Schuylkill Chamber and members of the medical community.

A lack of response prompted a second sent letter to be sent on May 9, said state Rep. Jerry Knowles.

“My people are frustrated, my people are angry,” Knowles said.

“People get it - they know how bad this is. Nobody wants to get sick or get their employees sick. People can be responsible, and I have confidence in the people that I represent that they will do the right thing. I believe it’s time to get these small stores open. We need to open up in a safe way.”

Wendy Lazo, president of St. Luke’s Miners Campus, and Gabe Kamarousky, president of Geisinger St. Luke’s Hospital, were two of many who signed off on the May 7 letter to Wolf. Lazo said the safety of St. Luke’s patients remains the highest priority.

“As we resume our outpatient elective surgical procedures and reopen many of our outpatient offices, we are assuring that our hospitals and facilities are as safe as ever,” Lazo said.

“We are adhering to universal masking for all staff, patients and visitors, we are screening all patients for COVID-19 prior to scheduling and again before arriving to appointments, limiting the number of people in our waiting rooms, continuing to follow rigorous cleaning protocols, making sure our staff is healthy and fever-free and providing virtual registration and check-in as well as online payment options. St. Luke’s takes every precaution to ensure our patients’ safety, allowing them to continue to receive the highest quality care when they need it.”

Entering the yellow phase is one huge step toward going green, Knowles said.

“The other thing that I think people need to understand is that when you go from red to yellow, the biggest deal is that you’re one step closer to green … It levels the playing field. It puts small businesses on the same level as the big-box stores. Going yellow does not open beauticians, it does not open barbers, it does not open restaurants. Everything else stays the same.”

However, Wolf said Monday he believes Schuylkill, Lancaster, Dauphin, Franklin and Lebanon counties - the five Pennsylvania counties which plan to defy his orders, are rushing into the yellow phase.

“Because we have banded together, Pennsylvania continues to weather this storm,” Wolf said during his daily press conference on Monday. “Prematurely opening up counties, however, will result in deaths, and not just the loss of jobs.”

Wolf later stated on his Facebook page, “The politicians who are encouraging counties to reopen prematurely are putting all of us at risk of resurgence.”

Sen. Dave Argall was one of six to sign the follow-up letter to Wolf on May 9. Others included Knowles, state Rep. Mike Tobash, and all three Schuylkill County commissioners.

“Time and time again, the governor made it clear that he did not care about other points of views in light of the pandemic. In a secretive process, he granted certain waivers to some employers while denying waivers to others,” Argall said.

“When counties and employers try to adapt to the governor’s and the CDC’s standards, they either must wait for the governor’s permission to move forward or are harshly criticized by the governor. I never thought I would see the day when a governor would call residents and employers who want to provide for themselves as ‘selfish’ and ‘cowardly.’?”

The Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce did not comment on its stance on Monday.