PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The reopening debate continues to rage across the nation and here in Philadelphia as a protest in favor took place Friday in Center City. Twenty-four counties in the north-central and northwest parts of Pennsylvania are beginning what’s called the “yellow phase” of the reopening plan.
But in the southeast part of the state, it will remain in the red and because of that, protesters in Philadelphia are rallying.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, protesters took to the streets near Philadelphia City Hall to send a strong message to city and state leaders about reopening businesses amid the fight against COVID-19.
“We want to see life go completely back to normal but that cannot happen, but we need something. Right now, we have nothing,” said Victor Della Barba, co-creator of Reopen Philadelphia.
Della Barba and his group is one of multiple that took a stance outside of City Hall against Gov. Tom Wolf and his stay-at-home orders, which prohibit wider business reopening activity in the southeast region of the state.
Wolf has lifted his stay-at-home orders in the northwest and north-central parts of the state and announced Friday 13 more western Pennsylvania counties will transition into the yellow phase next week.
But in Philadelphia, the governor’s stay-at-home orders have been extended another month until June 4.
Pennsylvania health officials have long said the densely-populated area would be among the last in the state to reopen even as Philadelphia officials point to encouraging trends in the fight against COVID-19.
“This is wrong on every single level and the collateral damage is going to be far worse than what’s happening,” one protester said.
Business owner Darrell Dorsey had to close his Center City restaurant and lounge, named Haute, about two months ago. Almost all 18 of his employees are out of work.
“I don’t even know what is the solution. It’s like a catch-22. It’s like you want to get back open, but people are going to just come get sick,” Dorsey said.
The protests come amid reports of the worst job loss in United States history.
Over 20 million jobs were lost in April as the unemployment rate soared to 14.7%, which is the highest rate since the Great Depression.
“People need to get back to work. We can’t just sit and collect checks and let the economy tank, we have a whole future to think about. We just can’t go into another Great Depression,” Della Barba said.
Eyewitness News reached out to Mayor Jim Kenney and a spokesperson said, “While we respect these individuals’ rights to protest, it is still the position of Mayor Kenney and the Administration that our decisions will be based on public health guidance. We will not sacrifice lives for the sake of reopening. The Kenney Administration is comfortable with the Governor’s plan and is currently in discussions with state officials, and leadership in the suburban counties, on a more detailed plan specific to Southeastern Pennsylvania. Within the parameters set by the Governor, we’re confident that a regional plan tailored to our population density and other factors, is appropriate, and we look forward to announcing that in the near future.”