Secretary of Health Signs Revised Mask Order, Travel Restrictions
Due to continued escalation of COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalization, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed four mitigations orders yesterday. Levine continues to state that the commonwealth has no plans to shut the state down. The mitigation orders include:
A revised mask order is now in effect and requires masks indoors or in enclosed spaces where other people who are not in the individual’s household are in the same space, irrespective of physical distance. In addition:
- Masks are required outdoors with non-household members if unable to maintain sustained physical distance of at least six feet;
- Masks are required to participate in an indoor/outdoor event, gathering or group setting if someone is present who is not a member of your household; and
- Businesses must require all to wear a mask or face shield and take reasonable steps to enforce these provisions.
- There is an exception for “working alone,” which includes someone inside an office or inside a cubicle “with walls high enough to block the breathing zone of all people walking by, and the worker’s activity will not require anyone to come inside of the worker’s workspace.”
When asked about enforcement, Levine said that businesses were required to enforce the orders, however, not when it is unsafe to do so or when it would escalate a situation.
Keep in mind that a number of the exemptions from the earlier mask order remain in place, including, individuals with medical conditions, where wearing a mask would create an unsafe working condition, an individual working alone, individuals communicating with the hearing impaired or another disability, and children under two years.
Face covering is broadly defined in the order and includes any covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps or loops over the ears or wrapped around the lower face. Face shields continue to be acceptable as an alternative to a face covering. The July 15 Face Covering order has been rescinded by the new order. Click here to read the new order.
Levine issued an order that will take effect Friday, November 20 and will require anyone who visits from another state to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of entering the commonwealth or to quarantine for 14 days. This requirement also applies to Pennsylvanians who visit other states. There are exceptions for commuting to work, medical needs, military personnel, and travelers passing through Pennsylvania. This replaces the travel quarantine recommendation and list of states. When questioned about enforcement, Levine did not provide an enforcement mechanism, but emphasized that the commonwealth does not want Pennsylvanians or others to travel during the holiday season and understands that this will be a sacrifice. Click here for the travel order.
Levine also issued a memorandum to acute care hospitals outlining commonwealth expectations to care for Pennsylvanians who need care during the pandemic. Hospitals are to work through existing coalitions and partnerships to support one another if a hospital becomes overwhelmed. Hospitals are also asked to move up elective procedures necessary to protect a person’s health and to be prepared to suspend elective procedures if the health system becomes strained. Current modeling from the University of Washington estimates that Pennsylvania will run out of intensive care beds in December if ICU admissions continue at the current rate.
The state departments of Health and Education issued recommendations for colleges and universities to implement a testing plan for when students return to campus following the holidays, including routine protocols for testing and capacity for isolation and quarantine.