Wolf broadens rules for wearing masks

By Mike McGann, Editor The Times @mikemcgannpa

Gov. Tom Wolf has a simple message for Pennsylvanians: if you’re not home, wear a mask. Always.

Wolf expanded his order on masks Wednesday to include pretty much every activity outside of the home with an eye on slowing the spread of COVID-19, which experienced its highest rate of new cases in the US ever on Wednesday — and alarming growth in Allegheny County as well.

“This mask-wearing order is essential to stopping the recent increase in COVID-19 cases we have seen in Pennsylvania,” Gov. 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, signed by state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, basically requires masks with the following exceptions: medical exemptions, safety reasons (operating equipment that could get tangled with a mask or not function properly), those unable to remove a mask without assistance, and children under age 2. Masks are not required for patients during dental procedures — but should be worn before and after.

With all counties either at or about to move into the full Green phase, state officials caution that this is not the time for people to let their guard down — the COVID-19 virus is still out there and still making people sick.

“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.” 

National 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.’ ”

While there is no formal enforcement plan — or penalties — as yet, 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.

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