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State Health Secretary signs order requiring residents to wear masks whenever they're in public

Dr. Rachel Levine's latest order goes into effect immediately, according to Governor Tom Wolf

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine signed an order Wednesday requiring Pennsylvanians to wear face-covering masks whenever they leave home.

The order expands on the business safety order signed by Levine in April that requires the wearing of masks in businesses. Wednesday's order, signed under Levine's authority under the Disease Prevention and Control Act, takes that a step further, and goes into effect immediately.

The order will remain in place until further notice, Levine said.

“This mask-wearing order is essential to stopping the recent increase in COVID-19 cases we have seen in Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said in a press release. “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.”

Levine's order states Pennsylvanians must wear a face covering -- that is, a covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, loops, or straps over the ears or is wrapped around the lower face -- when they are:

  • Outdoors and unable to maintain a consistent distance of six feet from individuals who are not members of their household
  • In any indoor location where members of the public are generally permitted
  • Waiting for, riding on, or are operating public transportation or paratransit or while in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle
  • Obtaining services in a healthcare sector including, but not limited to, a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank
  • Engaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site, when interacting in-person with any member of the public, working in any space visited by members of the public, working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others, working in or walking through common areas, or any room or enclosed area where other people, except for members of the person's own household or residence, are present when unable to physically distance

The order has limited exceptions to the face-covering requirement, including:

  • Those who have medical conditions that impede breathing, mental health conditions, or disabilities
  • Those for whom wearing a mask would create an unsafe working condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task as determined by local, state, or federal workplace safety guidelines
  • Those who would be unable to remove a mask without assistance
  • Individuals under 2 years of age
  • Individuals who are communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired or has some other disability, where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication

Each of the state’s mitigation efforts has helped to slow the spread of COVID-19, kept our health care systems from being overwhelmed, and allowed for Gov. Wolf’s measured, phased reopening to proceed. But, with nearly every county is the green phase of reopening, complacency cannot be the norm.

“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.’”

The mask-wearing order will be sent to state and local officials, law enforcement and others tasked with education about the order for those not in compliance.

SOURCE: Office of Governor Tom Wolf