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From the archives 2020

Pennsylvania mandates masks in public for most people amid coronavirus increases

by Cynthia Fernandez of Spotlight PA |

Gov. Tom Wolf said new "hot spots can be traced to situations where Pennsylvanians were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing."
Commonwealth Media Services

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HARRISBURG — Most Pennsylvanians are now required to wear masks in public — rather than simply when they enter businesses — under a new order issued by the Wolf administration in response to the recent increase in coronavirus cases.

Over the past 14 days, new positive cases have been rising in 21 counties, according to Spotlight PA’s COVID-19 tracker. The increases are being led by Allegheny County and the surrounding counties, including Beaver, Butler, Armstrong, Washington, and Westmoreland.

“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,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement.

The order, signed by Health Secretary Rachel Levine, states that masks must be worn by those who are outside and unable to maintain six feet of space from others. Those who are visiting an indoor area where the general public is permitted must also wear face coverings. People in hospitals, pharmacies, veterinary clinics, and other health-care settings must also wear a mask.

The order also reiterates that workers must wear masks when preparing food or interacting with members of the public.

In announcing the move, Levine wrote masks are necessary 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.”

There are a few exceptions to the order, including for workers for whom it would be unsafe to wear a mask — like those operating equipment — as well as individuals with medical or mental health conditions, or those with disabilities.

All but one Pennsylvania county is now in the “green” phase of Wolf’s reopening plan, which allows bars and restaurants to reopen at 50% capacity. Allegheny County has tied a recent increase in cases to establishments that serve alcohol, leading officials to ban on-site consumption.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, will not allow indoor dining to resume this week as planned as city officials report an uptick in cases among young people. Officials have linked new cases to summer beach travel and socializing. The city has also asked that anyone traveling from one of 15 states experiencing sharp increases to self-quarantine for 14 days.

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