Order makes masks mandatory in public

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

Expanding on the business safety order signed by Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine in April that requires the wearing of masks in businesses, Governor Tom Wolf last week announced a new order signed by Levine that takes the mask-wearing directive one step further.

With this order, signed July 1 with Levine’s authority under the Disease Prevention and Control Act, masks must be worn whenever anyone leaves home, according to a news release from the governor's office. The order took effect immediately.

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

Each of the state’s mitigation efforts has helped to slow the spread of COVID-19, kept health care systems from being overwhelmed and allowed for Wolf’s measured, phased reopening to proceed, according to the news release. 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,” 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.

Restaurants and bars 

The Wolf administration also reminded Pennsylvanians of the requirements put in place for restaurants and bars to protect the health and safety of workers and patrons from COVID-19.

“As we continue to make public health and safety a top priority, it’s also important that we take measured and necessary steps so that Pennsylvanians can patronize businesses safely,” Wolf said. “Restaurants and bars offer families and friends a place to gather and socialize while enjoying food and drink, and we want to make sure that business owners and staff have the proper precautions in place to protect workers and patrons. We have put forth guidance with critical requirements to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 so that these businesses can remain open.” 

Under the governor’s Process to Reopen Pennsylvania, in the green phase of the state’s reopening plan restaurants and bars may open at 50 percent occupancy.

Pennsylvania’s restaurant industry guidance was developed in coordination with the Restaurant and Lodging Association. All businesses and employees in the restaurant and retail food service industry must:

  • Require all customers to wear masks while entering, exiting or otherwise traveling throughout the restaurant or retail food service business. Face coverings may be removed while seated.
  • Provide at least 6 feet between parties at tables or physical barriers between customers where booths are arranged back to back. If tables or other seating are not movable, seat parties at least 6 feet apart.
  • Where possible, stagger work stations to avoid employees standing next to each other. Where 6 feet of separation is not possible, consider spacing options that include other mitigation efforts with increased frequency of cleaning and sanitizing surfaces.
  • Establish a limit for the number of employees in shared spaces, including break rooms and offices to maintain at least a 6-foot distance.
  • Not use shared tables among multiple parties unless the seats can be arranged to maintain 6 feet of distance between parties.
  • Train all employees on the importance and expectation of increased frequency of handwashing, the use of hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol and provide clear instructions to avoid touching hands to face.
  • Assign employee(s) to monitor and clean high touch areas frequently while in operation.
  • Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls to ensure that customers remain at least 6 feet apart in lines or waiting for seating or in line for the restroom.
  • Businesses must follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health guidance for social distancing and cleaning.

The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE) will be conducting compliance checks at licensed facilities to ensure that the requirements are observed. Failure to comply risks citation by the BLCE, a fine of up to $1,000 and possible suspension and/or revocation of the liquor license.