LEWISBURG — Preston Boop, Union County commissioner chair, said new information was found out over the weekend about COVID-19 cases attributed to the county.

Of 11 new cases, Boop said nine were shifted out of the county, which made Friday’s Department of Health (DOH) decision to not move Union County to the least restrictive status for coronavirus mitigation all the more perplexing.

“We got the raw end of the deal here,” Boop said. “We’re going to the governors and saying we should be green.”

Boop said Michelle Dietrich, Union County EMA coordinator, alerted him to the discrepancy. He expected to bring his case to the state as early in the week as possible.

“It was a mistake,” Boop said. “Or a fraudulent act on somebody’s part for political or financial gain. I don’t know what it was but it certainly was suspicious.”

Boop was skeptical that COVID-19 risks would be that much less in Snyder County, which will be going to the green, or the least restrictive phase, on Friday.

“If it is OK in Snyder County does this automatically change the exposure when you cross the New Berlin bridge across Penns Creek?” Boop asked. “Absolutely not. This whole system is a farce.”

Commissioner Jeff Reber, was similarly disappointed.

“Even with the couple of extra cases we had this week, we were still under that threshold of 50 per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period,” Reber said. “I thought for sure we would be turning green along with Snyder County.”

Reber added that coronavirus was indeed a danger, but it was time to save livelihoods as well as lives. The impact on mental health and families due to isolation should also be addressed.

Reber said personal notes and calls about what’s been going on have been frequent.

“The people who have gone through more severe COVID-related illnesses, those stories have been horrendous,” he said. “This isn’t about choosing the economy over lives, or lives over the economy.”

Reber’s view stressed looking at the overall picture.

“It’s not an either/or,” Reber said. “In my opinion, everything goes together. We’ve got to make sure people are safe, but also have to make sure we get this economy back.”

Meantime, Commissioner Stacy Richards said it was unclear why there was a spike in cases at the end of the week and why it was corrected on Saturday.

“It was very poor timing,” Richards said. “The state was indicating, based on their metrics, what counties were able to move into the green phase.”

Richards said there was no explanation for the fluctuation of numbers. Answers would be sought when state offices open up again after the holiday weekend.

“It really throws Union County into a category in which we could go green,” Richards said. “We will work to try to have Union County move into the green phase along with Snyder and Montour counties as early as Friday.”

Richards said cautions should be observed, for the sake of employee health as well as the health of businesses.

“We are going to find it was probably easier to shut down than it is to open,” Richards said. “We need good, reliable data to do that.”

Richards said obtaining necessary information should preclude action on the matter.

Staff writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at matt@standard-journal.com.

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