Pa. Health Secretary issues new order, makes mask wearing required indoors even if you are physically distant

Pa. Health Secretary issues new order, makes mask wearing required indoors even if you are physically distant

HARRISBURG — As the cases of COVID-19 continue to explode in Pennsylvania, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine on Tuesday announced “targeted efforts” to control the spread across the state.

“We have no plans to go back to the red, yellow, green phase system,” Levine said during the news conference.

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She said the new order strengthens the initial mask order issued in April:

MASKS:

  • Masks are required to be worn indoors and outdoors when away from home
  • When outdoors, a mask must be worn if you are not able to stay at least 6 feet away from someone not in your household the entire time you are outdoors
  • When indoors, masks will now be required even if you are physically distant from members not in your household. This means you will need to wear a mask inside if with people other than members of your household.
  • The order applies to every indoor facility, including homes, retail establishments, schools, gyms, doctors' offices, public transportation and anywhere food is prepared, packaged or served.

COLLEGES/UNIVERSITIES

  • The state health and education departments have issued recommendations for colleges and universities to implement a testing plan for when students return to campus following the holidays. This includes routine testing and reporting protocols and posting data online about positive cases and positivity rates.
  • Colleges and universities should have adequate capacity for isolation and quarantine and should be prepared to enforce violations of policies such as mask-wearing and physical distancing.
  • Every college and university should test all students at the beginning of each term when returning to campus after a break and have regular screening/testing throughout the semester.

HOSPITALS

  • Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine has issued an advisory to acute care hospitals outlining expectations to care for Pennsylvanians who need care during the pandemic. Hospitals should also be working to move up elective procedures necessary to protect a person’s health and prepare to suspend them if our health care system becomes strained.

OUT-OF-STATE TESTING

  • The Secretary of Health issued an order requiring anyone who visits from another state to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the commonwealth.
  • If someone cannot get a test or chooses not to, they must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Pennsylvania.
  • Pennsylvanians visiting other states are required to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to their return to the commonwealth or to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania.
  • This does NOT apply to people who commute to and from another state for work or medical treatment.
  • This order takes effect on Friday, November 20.

Levine said that one model from the University of Washington showed the state will run out of intensive care beds in December. The model data showed the state would exceed the number of beds by Dec. 16.

Channel 11 asked UPMC about this and received the following statement: “UPMC continues to coordinate with the Governor, Secretary of Health and other hospital systems to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

COVID-19 model data showed PA would run out of ICU beds by Dec. 16.
COVID-19 model data showed PA would run out of ICU beds by Dec. 16.

She said the model data showed there will be medical surgery beds available, but it was not clear if those beds would be available everywhere. She pointed to this data as a major reason for these new requirements.

“This virus has certainly taught us that we are all interconnected,” Levine said. “Each and every one of us has an important job to do to make sure schools and businesses can stay open. We must stand united in stopping COVID-19."

Levine said it is the responsibility of businesses and law enforcement to uphold the mask-wearing order. She said there are no plans to have people waiting at the state’s borders or in airports checking to see if a person can prove they have tested negative for COVID-19. She said this is just recommending people do not travel.

She said the state’s medical care and understanding of the virus is improved compared to where it was in the spring. She said the state will see challenges to the health care system, and if everyone works together to get through this surge, things will improve.

Pennsylvania saw a seven-day increase of more than 26,000 cases, with a statewide positivity rate of 9.6%, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

There were 9,569 more new cases across the state over the past week compared to the previous week. On Monday, the state reported a two-day total of 9,675 new COVID-19 cases for a statewide total of 269,613.

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