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Pennsylvania strengthens mask order amid record COVID-19 cases

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Health officials in Pennsylvania have issued a tougher mask mandate amid record highs in coronavirus cases — now requiring people to wear face coverings indoors in their own homes under certain circumstances.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine unveiled four new mitigation efforts Tuesday as hospitalizations statewide continue to rise and daily case counts remain far higher than spring levels.

Pennsylvania, which first issued a mask mandate in April, is now requiring “universal face coverings” indoors even if social distancing can be maintained. This includes at retail establishments, gyms, public transportation and anywhere food is prepared, packaged or served, the updated order states. When outdoors, a mask must be worn if physical distancing cannot be maintained.

“This means that even if you are able to be 6 feet apart, you will need to wear a mask while inside if with people other than members of your household,” health officials said in a press release.

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But on Twitter, the Pennsylvania Department of Health took the mandate even further, clarifying that the indoor mask mandate even applies within a person’s own home.

“Strengthening masking order. Masks are still required. Indoors: masks now required anytime you’re with people outside of your household, even if you’re socially distant. Applies to all indoor facilities + if you have people in your home not part of your household,” the department tweeted.

A man and a woman wearing masks walk near Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh yesterday.
A man and a woman wearing masks walk near Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh yesterday.Gene J. Puskar/AP

A separate order also requires anyone visiting Pennsylvania from another state to test negative for the virus within 72 hours prior to entering. Anyone who is not tested must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

The order, which takes effect Friday, does not apply to people who commute from another state for work or medical treatment, Levine said.

“We have no plans to be enforcing, checking for tests when people come off airplanes or when people drive into Pennsylvania,” Levine told reporters, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We are not looking to take people to court.”

Levine said state officials would prefer if no one traveled to or from Pennsylvania during the holiday season, the newspaper reported.

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Levine also issued a memo to hospitals warning administrators that the state may run out of ICU beds as soon as next month if the current rate of admissions continues. As such, Levine asked to move up elective procedures or to postpone them if the health care system is inundated with COVID-19 patients.

The state Department of Health and Education is also recommending that colleges institute a testing plan for returning students following the holiday season, Levine said.

“We must remain united in stopping COVID-19,” Levine said. “Wear a mask, wash your hands and download the COVID Alert PA app. If you test positive, please answer the call of the case reviewer and provide information that can help protect others. It’s the selfless, right thing to do.”

As of Monday, at least 9,325 Pennsylvanians have died from the virus, state officials said. The new mitigation efforts came as the state set a record with 5,900 additional confirmed cases Tuesday, the Inquirer reported.

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Pennsylvania strengthens mask order amid record COVID-19 cases

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