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Wyoming County business owners want to reopen

The county has met at least one of the state's criteria for moving into the yellow phase of the reopening process, but state officials are not easing restrictions.

TUNKHANNOCK, Pa. — Business owners in Tunkhannock are ready to remove "closed" signs from their doors. Some were hopeful they'd be able to do just that this Friday.

But when Governor Wolf announced which counties were allowed to begin the processing of reopening, Wyoming County was not on the list.

RELATED: Governor announces plan to ease restrictions and reopen Pennsylvania

"I was heartbroken," said Sarah Streby of Prehempt CBD Boutique.

"I was sad, very sad. and without explanation of why, it made me even sadder," said Mark Monsey.

Monsey owns Greenwood's Furniture. The family business has been open for 59 years, but Monsey isn't sure how much longer he can hang on.

"We could dive into our savings to continue on. It's getting almost to that point. If it delays a lot longer, I've had to think about an exit strategy."

The main drag of the borough of Tunkhannock is lined with several small businesses, many of which are struggling to stay afloat right now. Some of them have already had to close their doors permanently.

"I don't know what it's going to look like after, that's what scares me. If it's another month, six weeks before we open up, there'll be no money, no customers, and it'll be a ghost town," Monsey said.

Prehempt CBD Boutique is considered an essential business. Owner Sarah Streby has been offering online ordering, curbside pickup, and private appointments. She's seen a sharp drop in sales, and she says it's just not the same.

"I miss my neighbors, I miss seeing the regulars walk up and down the street," Streby said.

Both business owners say their stores in Tunkhannock would be even better suited for social distancing than some of the big box stores that are allowed to stay open.

"I never get more than two or three people in here at a time that's busy," said Streby.

"I can do one customer, one sales staff, at a time easily; disinfect after everyone, easily," Monsey added.

They say the most frustrating part is not understanding why the county wasn't allowed to reopen when it meets the state's criteria for doing so.

Requirements for businesses, as they reopen, have been released by the governor's office.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health sent this response to our question concerning Wyoming County moving from red to yellow:

"We are taking a careful, measured approach to ensuring that Pennsylvanians can resume work and normal routines safely.  Regions are moving from red to yellow now because of their size and geography of the population; the low rates of infection and our ability to do testing and contact tracing. Successfully moving these regions from red to yellow will give us a good indication as to whether or not we can open other regions safely.  If there were to be an outbreak in a county in these regions, we are confident that we could control it through our contact tracing and testing plans.

"From the time this pandemic reached Pennsylvania, our priority has been to save lives and ensure that our health care system could treat people who become sick, without overwhelming the entire system.  Our social distancing efforts have paid off and we have been able to prevent a surge of patients needing urgent care.  We need to continue this effort to ensure that Pennsylvanians remain safe.

"Wyoming County is considered as part of the northeast, where there has been widespread cases of COVID-19."