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Huntingdon heading to green

By William Kibler

bkibler@altoonamirror.com

Huntingdon County will be granted its release by the state on Friday.

The county will go from yellow to green on the reopening continuum, two weeks later than Blair, Bedford and Cambria counties and three weeks later than Centre and Clearfield.

The delay was almost certainly because of a serious COVID-19 outbreak at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, where at least 168 inmates and 54 employees were infected and five inmates died — although most of those who caught the virus have recovered.

“Finally,” said commissioners Chairman Mark Sather. “It was a long time coming.”

Going green will allow restaurants, barber shops, hair and nail salons and gyms to reopen.

Small, locally owned versions of those businesses have been the ones that have endured the most during the shutdown, along with tip-dependent restaurant staffers, who sometimes can’t get a full measure of unemployment benefits, according to Sather.

Some of those businesses have been borrowing money to keep things going, Sather said.

The most strenuous complaints, however, have come from the owners and customers of dog grooming shops, according to Sather — even though groomers were permitted to open when the county went to yellow on May 29.

Keeping the groomers closed at all seemed unjustified to the complainants, because there is little human-to-human contact involved, given that the pets are dropped off, trimmed in the absence of customers and picked up afterward, Sather said.

The county has recently been “in the process” of opening its several buildings to the public, adding protective shields and hand sanitizer stations and bringing in cleaning staff after hours for additional work to ensure against infection of employees and the public, Sather said.

In addition to the courthouse, there are two annexes, the sheriff’s office and the Bailey Building, formerly an Elks Lodge, Sather said.

Huntingdon County will go to green with seven others: Dauphin, Franklin, Luzerne, Monroe, Perry, Pike and Schuylkill, according to a state news release.

After those counties go green, only 13 will remain in the yellow phase, according to information in the news release.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday touted the state’s reopening effort, citing various reports that show Pennsylvania’s generally cautious approach has helped keep down the number of cases.

According to an Associated Press analysis, infection numbers are increasing in more than half the states, while Pennsylvania’s are not, a governor’s office news release states.

Since a mid-April infection peak, testing in Pennsylvania has increased significantly, while new cases, hospitalizations and deaths have declined, according to a Tableau Public analysis, the news release states.

A new-case graph on the Department of Health website Friday shows a decline from the peak that approximates a 30-degree angle, while a death graph shows a decline that approximates a 60-degree angle.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

By the numbers

New/total county cases: Blair 1/54 (1 death); Bedford 0/46 (2 deaths); Cambria 1/62 (3 deaths, including 1 new death); Centre 7/165 (7 deaths); Clearfield 1/50; Huntingdon 0/237 (includes SCI-Huntingdon, where 5 inmates have died);

Area new/total cases: 10/614

New/total cases statewide: 686 (up 46 percent)/77,999 (73 percent recovered), 629 positive serology tests

New/total deaths statewide: 49/6,162

*There was a new death listed for long-term care facilities in Cambria County on the Department of Health website Friday. According to Coroner Jeff Lees, the older Cresson man died at Select Specialty Hospital, Johnstown. The care facility was not named.

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