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PA Governor Defers Enforcement of Mask Mandate to Local Officials and Businesses

Screen Shot 2020-07-05 at 13.29.56 files

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s latest mask mandate issued this week – though “expanded” to include outdoor activities – still comes with zero enforcement, leaving it up to local officials, businesses and residents alike to decide whether they will comply.

“We are relying on the good sense and cooperative spirit of Pennsylvanians to follow the Secretary of Health’s mask-wearing requirement order, and at this time law enforcement will not be charged with enforcing this latest order with citations for noncompliance,” said Lyndsay Kensinger, Wolf’s spokesperson. “Other existing orders, such as the business safety order, will continue to be enforced with educational tactics, warnings and possible citations for non-compliance.” 

The mandate came Wednesday, a day before the state reported a 31 percent spike in new COVID-19 cases, with a statewide total exceeding 80,000. More than 6,700 residents have died after contracting the virus and 78 percent have recovered, according to the Department of Health.

Despite the rise in cases, Wolf said he’s relying on local leaders to enact pandemic restrictions, signaling an unwillingness – for now – to push any counties back into the more restrictive stages of his economic reopening plan. Allegheny County announced Thursday it will implement a one-week shutdown of bars, restaurants, casinos and gatherings larger than 25 people for one week as coronavirus cases there continue to surge.

“It is essential that Pennsylvanians wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “While cases increase in some areas, we cannot become complacent.” Screen Shot 2020-03-21 at 19.19.25

Levine told KDKA on Thursday that the state won’t arrest residents for not wearing masks when in public – leaving many to wonder how or if anyone will enforce the “mandate.”

It’s not the first time Wolf mandated universal masking. Back in April, he said residents should wear masks in public spaces and businesses, but left it up to establishments themselves to enforce the policy. Likewise, with the newest order, businesses will have the leeway to contact law enforcement should a patron refuse to wear a mask. 

Carlisle Borough officials said, based on advice from the Cumberland County District Attorneys Office, local police can issue citations if customers refuse to wear masks inside businesses. 

Republican Reps. State Reps. Mike Jones, Daryl Metcalfe, Russ Diamond, Stephanie Borowicz and David Rowe criticized the latest mandate in a joint statement Thursday, pointing to months of public flip-flopping on the issue of whether masks were “required” or just “recommended.” 

“We wonder not only what medical studies and professionals the governor has consulted before making this determination, but also if Pennsylvanians will be able to hold the governor accountable for disseminating possibly harmful information in the first place,” the representatives said. “We also wonder how the administration will be enforcing this mandate. And we have to question if the governor has officially ended all possibility of being seen as credible by the people of Pennsylvania as we navigate the waters of COVID-19 for the remainder of 2020.”

Kensinger said the administration’s initial guidance on masking never changed. It’s just been expanded to include outdoor public spaces, too. 

“Masks have always been required in businesses,” she said.


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