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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Students adjust to reopening counties

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GRAPHIC: CASEY WOOD ’22/THE HAWK

Since Governor Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order expired on June 5, all 67 counties in Pennsylvania began reopening. For Sophie Escario ’21, beginning to reopen means she and her four of her roommates have returned to their house, only blocks away from St. Joe’s empty campus. 

“I still see people maintaining social distancing guidelines,” Escario said. “Before going on walks I would wear a mask, but people aren’t really wearing masks in outdoor settings.”

Wolf issued the first stay-at-home order on March 23 and extended it statewide on April 1. Pennsylvania’s system for reopening includes three phases: red, yellow and green, with restrictions lessening as counties move from one phase to the next. Twenty-one counties remain in the yellow phase, while 46 are in green as of June 12.

Southeastern Pennsylvania, specifically the Philadelphia region, was the last to transition to the yellow phase on June 5. Escario, whose house is in Philadelphia County, said she noticed changes over the past week since moving into the yellow phase.

“There’s a lot more people out and about,” Escario said. “City Ave. is back to its normal traffic and congestion on the street.”

In the yellow phase, retail stores, child care centers and some businesses can open in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Health &Human Services. Additionally, masks are required inside businesses, and gatherings under 25 people are permitted. 

“[My roommates and I] hold each other accountable to say who we are seeing,” Escario said. “We are keeping our house bubble to a limited number.” 

For Alex Wilkes ’22, the changes in her hometown of Douglassville, Pennsylvania, may be small but nonetheless encouraging. Berks County, where Wilkes lives, transitioned to the yellow phase on June 5. Since the transition, Wilkes said she has experienced people being more relaxed with social distancing guidelines. 

“I’m glad we’re starting to move into new phases and taking steps to go back to normal,” Wilkes said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health unveiled a new County Dashboard on June 8 that tracks criteria for reopening and displays the status of each county. Counties must exhibit a “Stable, decreasing, or low count” of coronavirus cases over two weeks compared to the previous two weeks and must have less than 10% positive coronavirus tests, according to the Department of Health’s website. 

Another development with counties reopening is the start of summer jobs. With stores reopening and social distancing guidelines easing a bit, both Kyra Kopacz ’22, from Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, and Escario have started working again. 

“Barnes & Noble opened for curbside pickup last week and opened for people [in the store] this week,” said Kopacz, who works at the bookstore and anticipates picking up shifts soon.

Escario resumed her job babysitting, taking serious precautions around the children. 

“I’m never touching the kids, I’m wearing a mask inside and washing my hands constantly,” Escario said. 

Ultimately, Escario said that the transition from staying at home to reopening means having self-awareness and taking it slow.

“I think I’ll adapt in certain ways, but [I will] hold myself accountable because we’re still in a pandemic and it could still spread,” Escario said.

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