With Coronavirus Cases Growing, Pennsylvania Makes Masks Mandatory in All Public Spaces
HARRISBURG (JUL 1 2020) - With the state adding another 636 COVID-19 cases today, along with 38 additional deaths associated with the disease, the Governor and Secretary of Health have expressed concerns about the growth of cases since almost all of the commonwealth entered the green phase of reopening.
Saying they were acting in order to stem the growth and prevent a resurgence that would overwhelm hospital assets and force reinstatement of business closures across the state, effective immediately they have ordered all persons to wear masks whenever they leave their home. "(W)ith the reopening, the Commonwealth is beginning to see increases in new cases. Mindful of the need to slow this increase, in order to avoid the types of stringent Commonwealth-wide mitigation strategies that were discontinued a short time ago, and in order to avoid the resurgence that is overwhelming the health care systems and public health systems in other states, I am ordering that all persons in the Commonwealth wear face coverings in accordance with this Order," said Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of Health in making today's order. "Face coverings can decrease the spread of respiratory droplets from people. When used in public settings, face coverings will work to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth."
Based on numbers released today, Monroe County added two additional cases overnight, giving the county a 7-day total of 39 new cases. No new deaths were reported overnight. The daily average of new cases has jumped from 1.28 shortly before the county entered the green phase of reopening, to 5.57 today.
While the monthly total was significantly less than the 192 cases added in May, or the 891 cases in April, the last seven day increase of 39 cases is duplicated or exceeded over the next seven days, that would be seen as a warning sign that the county may be facing a resurgence of significant community spread.
Allegheny County on Friday banned on-site alcohol service in an effort to stem their spike in cases after opening. Neighboring New Jersey and New York states have delayed or rescinded back dine-in service for restaurants and bars, these and other reimposed restrictions are those which the governor and secretary have said they would rather not have to take. Universal masking has been shown in numerous recent peer-reviewed studies, around the world, to dramatically slow and prevent community spread of the disease.
“This mask-wearing order is essential to stopping the recent increase in COVID-19 cases we have seen in Pennsylvania,” Governor Tom Wolf said today. “Those hot spots can be traced to situations where Pennsylvanians were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing – two practices that must be adhered to if we want to maintain the freedoms we have in place under our reopening.”
The order outlines the situations when a mask must be worn and includes limited exceptions to the face-covering requirement, including when outside the home and "unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet from individuals who are not members of their household; all indoor locations (no exceptions for fitness centers); on public or private for hire transportation; in healthcare facilities; and at work.
Exceptions include diagnosed medical conditions of respiratory impairment, mental health conditions, or physical disabilities that prevent them from removing the mask at will; in the workplace if there are regulations preventing mask wearing because it creates a safety hazard; children under two, and when communicating with hearing-impaired persons.
“It is essential that Pennsylvanians wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “While cases increase in some areas, we cannot become complacent. My mask protects you, and your mask protects me. Wearing a mask shows that you care about others, and that you are committed to protecting the lives of those around you.”
More and more health experts have called for mask wearing, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said during a June 30 Senate hearing on COVID-19, “Americans who don’t wear masks may ‘propagate the further spread of infection.’”