July 6, 2020 -- Face masks are now mandatory in public spaces in Pennsylvania to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday, July 1. The new order takes effect immediately.
“This mask-wearing order is essential to stopping the recent increase in COVID-19 cases we have seen in Pennsylvania,” he said in a statement. “Those hot spots can be traced to situations where Pennsylvanians were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.”
Face coverings should be worn if people are outdoors and unable to stay 6 feet away from others who aren’t in their household, according to the order, as well as indoor public spaces, public transportation, ride-sharing services, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, veterinary clinics and blood banks. Workers who interact with people publicly, such as food service, should also wear masks.
The order includes exemptions for those who can’t wear a mask due to a medical condition, including respiratory issues, mental health conditions and disabilities. Children under age 2 also don’t have to wear a mask.
“While cases increase in some areas, we cannot become complacent,” Rachel Levine, MD, the state’s secretary of health who signed the order, said in a statement. “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.”
Oregon and Kansas also announced mandatory face mask requirements this week, according to NPR. They joined the growing list of states with mask mandates, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Washington. Several cities in hotspot states such as Arizona and Florida now require masks as well.
Public health officials have increasingly called for people to wear face masks, especially after a surge in coronavirus cases in the South and West.
“When you do not wear your face covering, we end up in a situation where you see higher rates of disease spread and you end up having to close places,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Tuesday during a press briefing.
“This mask, this face covering, actually is an instrument of freedom for Americans if we all use it,” he said.