As businesses throughout Lycoming County cautiously open their doors, some in county leadership are calling for the government to step back and individuals to hold each other accountable.
“If you see someone not complying, do not turn him in, ask him or her to comply, or not to come into your store,” said Commissioner Tony Mussare during a Friday morning press conference. “You are the only one who is accountable for the actions, or lack of actions.”
Lycoming County joins 23 other counties across the state that have been placed in the yellow phase for reopening by Gov. Tom Wolf.
Mussare added that if customers walk into a business that is not complying, they should leave.
“Walk out. It’s that easy,” he said.
Commissioner Rick Mirabito countered with a plea for caution. He drew an analogy between the county’s yellow phase and a yellow traffic light, saying many will speed up when they see the yellow light, but the safest option is to slow down.
“Let’s use common sense and follow the science,” Mirabito said. “When our first responders tell us not to go boating in the middle of an electric storm, we listen.”
On West Fourth Street, Gustonian Gifts owner Barb Mieli said reopening the store has been “wonderful.”
She and her staff cleaned the entire store before opening it again. Gloves are offered to those who want to wear them and everyone in the store is required to wear masks, while plexiglass is placed in front of the register and counter area.
Other downtown businesses such as Little Jet’s Boutique and Otto book store also opened their doors Friday but masks and social distancing remained a high priority.
“We have all recognized the seriousness of this public health crisis,” said Commissioner Scott Metzger. “The citizens in our county have been very responsible and have taken measures to reduce their risk.”
Lycoming County government buildings will be opened to the public starting May 11 “on a limited basis,” Metzger said, adding they should be entered by appointment only and anyone entering the building should wear a mask.
He added that the ultimate goal is for the county to quickly pass through the yellow phase into the green phase.
“Today’s actions will expedite, or delay, that process,” he said.
The county courthouse, which was never closed to the public, will also begin holding more hearings, however restrictions are still in place for how many may attend, according to President Judge Nancy Butts.
Anyone with questions about scheduling or procedure should call the courthouse or look at the scheduling site, she said.
“We are all in our offices. We are available by phone,” Butts said.
Anyone entering the courthouse must go through security, wear a mask and the sheriff’s deputies will determine where they need to go and if they should be in the building, according to Sheriff Mark Lusk.
“We want to try to expand everything as quickly as we can … with everybody’s safety in mind,” Lusk said.
The county did see a decrease in crime at the beginning of the pandemic, however that changed about three weeks ago with a homicide on Seventh Street in Williamsport, according to District Attorney Ryan Gardner.
Gardner added that the county narcotics unit has apprehended a number of drug dealers and seized a high quantity of drugs. Warmer weather has shown an increase in drug activity, he said.
“Crime isn’t going to rest and neither is law enforcement,” Gardner said.
Carrie Pauling, of NorthcentralPa.com, contributed to this report.