Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday that 12 more counties will move to the "yellow" phase of Pennsylvania's reopening structure this week.
Franklin County is not on the list and remains in the "red" — or strictest — phase of COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Wolf announced that Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Wayne and York will be the next batch of counties moving to the yellow phase of his reopening plan, effective May 22.
All told, by the end of this week, more than 40% of Pennsylvania's population will have seen an easing of pandemic restrictions.
After Wolf's announcement May 8 did not include Franklin, several county legislators sent a letter to Wolf indicating their intentions to lift some restrictions on May 15 by moving to the yellow phase, rebelling against his orders and saying the county has met standards such as "flattening the curve" and having sufficient health care equipment and capacity. The letter was signed by Sens. Doug Mastriano and Judy Ward and Reps. Paul Schemel, Rob Kauffman, John Hershey and Jesse Topper, as well as Franklin County Commissioner John Flannery.
Antrim Township supervisors supported the legislators' letter with a letter of their own to the governor on May 12.
"Antrim Township, and the Borough of Greencastle, which is completely surrounded by our township, have a combined population of approximately 20,000 residents. As of this week our combined municipalities, which share the 17225 zip code, have reported a total of 18 positive cases of the COVID-19 virus since reporting began in March. Many of these victims have since recovered from their initial positive identification in late March or April, and very few new cases (if any) in the Borough of Greencastle and Antrim Township are being reported," they wrote. "Based on your criteria of having less than 50 new cases of the virus reported over the past 14 days per 100,000 residents in a designated municipal area, our new cases in the 17225 zip code are considerably lower than your benchmark for re-opening of business. Therefore, it is quite apparent to us that our municipalities along with the remainder of Franklin County are ready to advance to the Yellow phase as outlined in your plan for re-opening the counties of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
"We, the undersigned, take the safety of our constituents very seriously and we will stand with and support any business in Franklin County that chooses to re-open on or after May 15, 2020 under the Yellow phase guidelines established by your office," said the letter signed by Supervisors Chad Murray, Rick Baer, John Alleman, Pat Heraty and Fred Young.
Earlier in the month, Greencastle Borough Council President Steve Miller and Georgina Cranston, executive director of the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce, also sent letters to the governor urging him to use the 17225 zip code data to reopen the community.
As of Sunday, there were 621 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 13 deaths in Franklin County. There were 26 confirmed cases in 17225 zip code. The state health department map does not provide data on deaths by zip code.
The governor fired back at Franklin and other counties considering reopening without his permission, threatening to withhold COVID-19 funding to any county that defies his order. Wolf also warned businesses that choose to reopen too soon risk licenses, certificates of occupancy and other required governmental approvals to operate. He said companies that ignore the shutdown order could also be jeopardizing their insurance coverage and putting themselves at risk of having their claims denied.
"I cannot allow residents in a red county to get sick because their local officials can't see the invisible risk of the virus in their community," Wolf said in a news release. "So, I must, and I will impose consequences if a county locally lifts restrictions when it has not yet been given the go-ahead by the state."
Red phase stay-at-home orders remain in effect until June 4, but that does not mean that other counties will not move to the yellow phase in advance of that date, according to the governor's office.
Following Friday's announcement, some Franklin County officials shared their reactions.
"I think it's disgusting and pathetic that the governor continues to allow his businesses and businesses that support him, the big box stores, to be open continually with hundreds of people in them every day while our small businesses suffer, many of which will most likely not reopen," said Commissioner John Flannery, who is a Greencastle business owner.
Fellow Commissioner Dave Keller is hoping a piece of legislation makes the path for reopening easier.
"Senate Bill 327 passed both houses of the PA General Assembly yesterday," Keller said Friday. "It would give counties the clear statutory authority to decide to move from red to yellow and most importantly to allow businesses to open up without fear of negative consequences from the governor. I would welcome that opportunity and I urge the governor to sign the bill."
"I'm disappointed that the guidelines to move from red to yellow phase have not been met in Franklin County," Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski said.
U.S. Congressman John Joyce, who represents Franklin County along with Adams and Cumberland counties, also released a statement.
"As the people of Adams and Cumberland counties join their fellow Pennsylvanians in the yellow phase, I continue to call on Gov. Wolf to be transparent with the Pennsylvanians who remain under his stay at home order – they deserve to know why they cannot yet get back to work," Joyce said.
— Echo Pilot writers Ben Destefan, Andrea Rose and Shawn Hardy contributed to this article.