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Wolf: More Studies Continue to Show Universal Masking Effective at Preventing COVID Resurgence

HARRISBURG (JUN 23 2020) – Governor Tom Wolf today noted that additional research continues to confirm the importance of wearing masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Masks Required Everywhere in State

Wolf also said again, as he has almost daily for the last week, that all Pennsylvanians are required to wear masks when entering any business in all counties in both yellow and green phases of reopening.

“As most counties are in or will soon be in the green phase of reopening, mask-wearing is a vital measure to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” Wolf said. “Pennsylvania has emerged as a leader among states for reduced cases amid increased reopening and we want that to continue to keep people safe and healthy while returning to many of the activities we enjoyed before COVID.”

Businesses Required to Enforce Mask Wearing

The mask requirement is part of Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel’s Levine’s order, “Directing Public Health Safety Measures for Businesses Permitted to Maintain In-person Operations,” which pertains to all counties regardless of the phase of reopening. The order requires businesses to enforce mask-wearing unless someone has an underlying health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. Children two or younger are not required to wear masks. All employees of retail and other "consumer-facing" businesses, are also required to wear masks at all times while working.

“Mask-wearing needs to be a part of our everyday routines,” Gov. Wolf said. “When you leave the house, grab your keys, your wallet and your mask. Mask-wearing has proven to be an important deterrent to the spread of the virus and keeping Pennsylvanians safe and healthy is the goal as we reopen and continue our mitigation efforts.” The state’s business guidance outlines mask-wearing requirements and additional safety parameters for both employees and customers.

New Studies Continue to Support Effectiveness of Masks to Reduce the Spread

According to a recent study in the Institute of Physics, wearing simple medical masks or improvised facial coverings reduces community exposures from asymptomatic, but unknowingly infectious, individuals.

The study concludes that while people may perceive them to be ineffective or burdensome to wear, “wearing some form of exhaled barrier (mask) out in public during pathogen outbreaks is an altruistic act serving not only as a form of enhanced cough or sneeze etiquette, but also to reduce the aerosols emitted from normal breathing or when talking. Without daily testing, nobody can be certain that they are not an asymptotic disease vector. Scientifically, this is a positive step towards helping combat the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams took to twitter on Sunday to advise that mask-wearing is contributing to and not infringing on freedom, tweeting in part, “Some feel face coverings infringe on their freedom of choice- but if more wear them, we’ll have MORE freedom to go out.”

In addition to mask wearing, Gov. Wolf and Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine have advised that robust testing and contact tracing in green counties are keys to safe, phased reopening. The state continues to increase testing and ramp up contact-tracing efforts. As of June 18 (the most recent data available), there are a total of 518 contact tracers, and a total of 4,161 contacts being monitored.

The Department of Health received a total of 89,350 test results in the past seven days, an average of 12,764 a day. The 30-day average of test results received is more than 13,934. There were 2,763 total cases added to investigations for the week of June 12 through 18.

New COVID Cases Slowing, But Still Significant in Pennsylvania

Last week, the CDC cited Pennsylvania as one of merely three states with a steady decline of new cases over a 42-day period. Nevertheless, the commonwealth continues to add hundreds of new cases, and dozens of deaths daily. As of 12:01 am this morning, the Department of Health reported a total of 82,696 cases in Pennsylvania, with 6, 464 deaths. Of those, over 14 thousand new cases, and over 1300 deaths, have come just in the four-week period since May 26. The 7-day moving average for the state ticked up this week, during which Pennsylvania added 450 new cases for five days straight for the first time since May.

Monroe County has significantly slowed the spread of the virus. For most of the pandemic, this county led the entire state in the per capita number of new cases. At one point, Monroe was only about six days behind New York City in terms of per capita growth of new cases. Today's numbers tell a different story. Monroe County has had a total of 1,379 identified COVID cases, and 108 deaths attributed to the disease. In the last month, the county has added just 74 cases and 6 deaths to those totals. Monroe county is no longer even in the top ten of counties in terms of toyal cases per 100,000 of the population.

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