DuBOIS — Starting last week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf eased coronavirus restrictions in 24 counties, including Clearfield, Jefferson and Elk, meaning those areas were allowed to move from the red phase to the yellow phase designation.

Under the yellow phase designation, stay-at-home orders have been lifted and gatherings of up to 25 people are allowed. Child care and some retail shops have been permitted to reopen, although businesses must follow federal and state guidelines for safety, social distancing and cleaning. Telework should continue at businesses where it is possible under Wolf’s plan.

Restaurants and bars are still limited to takeout and delivery. School buildings will remain closed, as will gyms, salons, casinos and theaters. Visits to nursing homes and prisons will still be prohibited.

“I believe the reopening of Clearfield County to the yellow phase is great news for our local businesses and workers,” said Sandy Township Manager Shawn Arbaugh. “This gives many of our local businesses the opportunity to finally open their doors under the Centers for Disease Control guidelines after weeks of closure or very limited operations. We are hopeful that this also allows the businesses to safely bring back their employees to the workforce and continue to prosper.”

DuBois City Manager John “Herm” Suplizio said the reopening under the yellow phase is a start and means much to local businesses.

“Everyone wants to go back to work,” said Suplizio. “They want to provide for their families. People in our area are workers. They don’t want to be in the unemployment line. This means so much for their livelihood, it means so much for their pride. It will go a long way in trying to get things back to some kind of normalcy, if there is such a thing.”

Arbaugh said the township is working closely with the Greater DuBois Chamber of Commerce to determine what businesses have reopened and to what extent.

“We’ve been doing our best to keep a pulse on our local business community,” said DuBois chamber Executive Director Jodi August. “However, it’s been frustrating following these phased guidelines that are unclear.”

“We do know that Hobby Lobby and Dunham’s were able to successfully open last Friday,” said Arbaugh.

Unfortunately, said Arbaugh, the interior stores at the DuBois Mall that do not have an exterior access point to the public were unable to open. The mall was able to establish points for customers to conduct curbside pick-up from retailers within the mall, he said. The township is hopeful that the mall stores will be allowed to open within the next three weeks.

“It’s great to see people and businesses following the CDC and Department of Health guidelines with physical distancing, wearing face masks, and conducting frequent disinfection operations,” said Arbaugh. “I believe these precautions will get us back to a safe, full reopening in a shorter time-frame.”

Downtown DuBois Executive Director Julie Stewart said the yellow phase has allowed many of the retailers in downtown DuBois, who previously could not be open to the public, to reopen. Some of those retailers include Peaceable Kingdom, Raven Moon’s Oracle, Junk Dealer’s Daughter, Madison Marie Bridal and Guzzo’s and Company.

“Those that were not considered essential businesses before,” said Stewart. “I’ve been out today (Monday) just checking out different businesses, and it’s been really good to see places open, but of course, it’s quiet still because people are still unsure of what the best thing to do is.”

August acknowledged the Downtown DuBois group and businesses which partnered together May 1 for the Virtual First Friday.

“I think they did a good job with it, because some of those small businesses don’t have websites and they can’t sell product online,” said August. “So the smartest thing for them to do was partner together to promote their businesses. They did very well.”

August said she has also been extremely proud to see businesses helping other businesses.

“I think that even though this has been a terrible pandemic, I’m still seeing good things and good people,” said August. “The biggest thing is, I love seeing businesses helping other businesses.”

Arbaugh also said the yellow phase designation has meant a flurry of construction activity within Sandy Township.

“We have been extremely busy with permitting of new construction projects, and beginning contracted work within the township,” said Arbaugh. “We have brought all of the staff back into the office to manage the increased activity.”

The Sandy Township office building is open to the public by appointment only.

“We are requiring visitors and staff to wear masks inside the building or riding in vehicles together,” said Arbaugh. “We continue to work daily with our Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Bickel, and the Pennsylvania Association of Township Supervisors to stay on top of the evolving guidance on operations.”

In DuBois, Suplizio said all city workers are back at work.

“We’re going to remain cautious; the city building is still closed for now. But we are open by appointment,” said Suplizio. “So if somebody wants to make an appointment here at the city, all they have to do is call.”

Arbaugh said he appreciates the patience and flexibility township residents and businesses have exhibited in navigating through the shutdown.

“It is wonderful to see the sheer number of people helping out others and adapting to changing guidance during this emergency event,” said Arbaugh. “It has been an absolute pleasure serving the residents and the outstanding leaders of our township during this emergency, but we are ready to get back to business.”

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