Are Masks Really Mandatory in Pennsylvania? Probably Maybe
*BREAKING* – Wolf Now Requires Masks in ALL Public Places
Pennsylvanians remain confused on the alleged universal mask order that took effect on April 20.
The big questions: Is it really an order? Or just a recommendation? Are masks required? Or are you urged to wear one?
What should be a simple yes-or-no question is apparently anything but. If you want an answer, you have to put up with either confusing messages or lectures from Governor Tom Wolf or Health Secretary Rachel Levine.
Are Pennsylvanians Required to Wear Face Masks in Public?
Don’t Ask the Governor.
You can find evidence of the order being in place but also evidence to the contrary.
For one example, check out the top of this page on the Pennsylvania Dept. of Health website under the “Stop the Spread” button:
That message is there right now. It’s very clear.
A statement with the order is buried under a sea of other press releases.
Last week, State Rep. Russ Diamond created quite the chaos when he proudly announced on Facebook that he’d just completed an unmasked shopping trip. He says he wore a mask to one specific business but that’s it.
Here’s the post that drove people insane last week:
Those who suddenly feel it’s their duty to enforce masking and then publicly shame those who don’t wear a mask lost their minds.
But in the days before Diamond shared this message, there was plenty of confusion on whether the mask order was an order.
And the Governor and Health Secretary’s language since the supposed mandate took effect hasn’t helped.
Businesses Think It’s a Mandate
Remember, thousands of stores and businesses allowed to stay open throughout the state’s pandemic response believe the order is an order. Things have gotten ugly when people try to enter stores without a mask.
Check out this video of a customer being harassed at a Giant Eagle grocery store in western Pennsylvania. He’s herded out of the store by several employees, a security guard, and a heavyset guy who felt compelled to self-deputize himself and enforce the alleged rule for the store:
Give Us a Straight Answer on Masks … Someone. Anyone!
Well, after seeing plenty of confused messages on social media on whether the order that went into effect on April 20 is still in place or was quietly walked back, The Canary went straight to the sources.
Last week, we submitted questions for PA Health Secretary Rachel Levine. Here’s our question:
- “Is the April 20 mandate to wear masks still in effect? Or has the DOH and Governor’s office reversed its decision to mandate masks to a recommendation? Must businesses still require customers to wear masks while shopping?”
We hoped for a very straightforward response. And we really wanted to hear from State Health Sect. Rachel Levine. Instead, we got Deputy Press Secretary Maggi Mumma.
And what we got was a somewhat straightforward response from Mumma. But then it got followed by what can only be described as a sanctimonious lecture. Mumma’s response went like this:
- “Masking is required if going into a retail location, as discussed in the guidance,” she said. But here comes the holier-than-thou part that made us wonder, why not just stop while you’re ahead. What Mumma says next makes us wonder if the first part is true or if we’re supposed to believe it’s true because of this next part. She added this unsolicited rant: “Pennsylvanians are expected to, and are doing the right thing, and we do not intend to fine or otherwise penalize an individual if they are not wearing a mask, but all are expected to wear a mask if they will be out in public and could interact with any individuals while out. This would include walking a dog if it is in an area where other people may be.”
Doing the right thing? That’s subjective. And that’s definitely not an order. What “the right thing” is to one person isn’t “the right thing” to another.
And then, after saying it’s “required”, Mumma changed the language in the second part of the statement from the Health Dept. “Pennsylvanians are expected to wear a mask …” again sounds like double-talk. Is it an order or are we “expected” to wear one? Just give us a straight answer!
We fired back another question after saying the answer we got was rather wishy-washy. We asked:
- “Can you answer as a yes-or-no … was the mask mandate amended or reversed?”
The Canary was pointed in the direction of two hard-to-find pages that weren’t as easy to find as the one we highlighted above. One is this FAQ documents on the masking order:Public Health Safety Measures for Businesses_FAQ2
That document makes if fairly clear for businesses and how they’re required to have employees masked. But good luck finding it.
After our peppering of Mumma got to be too much, some “Nate” person at the DOH press office pointed us to that document.
- “It is in the original order, which has not changed in regard to Worker Safety.
“As noted in the original order, and in our FAQs, with the exception of businesses that provide medication, medical supplies, or food, which must offer another means for the customer to purchase goods if the customer is unable to wear a mask. Those means could include home delivery or contactless curbside pick-up. However, individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (including children under the age of 2 years per CDC guidance) may enter the premises and are not required to provide documentation of such medical condition.
“If the customer is refused service, and if the business is not able to provide a mask, the business should consider providing information on mask making, distributing “how to” flyers, or sharing locations where a mask can be purchased. Additionally, businesses should advise the customer of the Secretary’s Order; tell the customer that only those who cannot wear a mask due to a medical conditions may enter the premises without a mask; and advise the customer that almost any face covering would be acceptable.
“If someone is to use alternative pickup, and the groceries, for example are loaded into the car and the person never has contact with the person loading the groceries, then a mask would not be required. However, for anyone going through a drive through or any situation in which they would be interacting with another person, a mask is still required. If items were delivered to the home and the individual did not need to sign or otherwise interact with the delivery personnel, a mask would not be necessary either.
“The mandate was not amended or reversed.”
Basically, it took two press agents and a combined 400 words to answer a simple yes-or-no question.
PennLive Questions Governor Wolf
In case you’re thinking we’re just looking to cause trouble, we weren’t alone in our confusion. As you’ll see below, the Govenor and the Health Dept. have a hard time saying wearing a mask is an order. They let the tough statements up to the press agents.
On Monday, PennLive.com asked Wolf a question about the mask mandate after the governor read us the Riot Act of 2020.
PennLive’s question read as follows, verbatim:
- “Despite remarks that masks must be worn in red zone counties, social media cards issued by the Governor’s office and the Dept. of Health website are saying that masks are encouraged not mandatory. Which exactly is this and what do you say to Pennsylvanians confused by the conflicting statements?”
Again, just below in our timeline on the mask messaging, you’ll see what The Canary, PennLive, and many others are noticing. So kudos to them for asking a straightforward question looking for a straightforward answer.
What they got was some confusing word salad from Wolf. And he definitely doesn’t answer the question. But he definitely gives another sanctimonious lecture.
- “I’m not a lawyer. So I don’t know what the issue is here. Uh, if you want to stay safe, you ought to wear a mask. Pure and simple. Again, you can take that as something maybe uh has force of law but the real force is that virus that’s out there lurking, waiting for opportunity to move from one person to another. To the extent that you want to keep that from happening, wear a mask.”
What a load of crap! Perhaps he was just in the threatening mood yesterday.
“If you want to stay safe … ?” What does that mean?
“You ought to wear a mask.” OK, nana.
“Pure and simple.” Sorry, Governor, this response is anything but pure and simple. And it only got worse from there.
“Again, you can take that as something maybe uh has force of law but the real force is that virus that’s out there lurking, waiting for opportunity to move from one person to another. To the extent that you want to keep that from happening, wear a mask,” is what he said.
That’s not an order, more likely wishful thinking. As in wishful we’ll just follow along and not question confusing messages.
Governor Wolf Mixed Messaging on Mask Order – Timeline
So, as for that confusing messaging, we put together a timeline of social media posts from Wolf and the DOH that only seem to cause confusion on whether masks are mandatory.
On April 15, Governor Tom Wolf issued his clearest message on universal masking in Pennsylvania. In a press release, masking requirements are outlined relatively clearly for employees and customers at businesses allowed to stay open under his orders.
The statement, specific to masks, says:
- For employees: Provide masks for employees to wear during their time at the business, and make it a mandatory requirement while at the work site, except to the extent an employee is using break time to eat or drink, in accordance with the guidance from the Department of Health and the CDC. Employers may approve masks obtained or made by employees in accordance with this guidance.
- For customers: Require all customers to wear masks while on premises, and deny entry to individuals not wearing masks, unless the business is providing medication, medical supplies, or food, in which case the business must provide alternative methods of pick-up or delivery of goods, except individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (including children the age of 2 years) may enter the premises without having to provide medical documentation.
As far as clear language goes, it stops there on universal masking mandates.
And then, as time moved on, word started spreading that the rules had changed but the Wolf administration didn’t tell anyone. Evidence on the umpteen websites the Wolf administration created shows the order may have been downgraded to a simple recommendation. But it didn’t come without condescending lectures on how you’re somehow a better person because you started wearing a mask after being told for weeks it wasn’t necessary.
Is That Really an Order?
Ever since the mandatory mask order allegedly took effect, the Wolf Administration has avoided using any language indicating it’s an order.
In fact, they make every effort to use language suggesting it’s a suggestion, not an order.
Check out this April 22 tweet from the Dept. of Health featuring Giselle Fetterman talking about her wearing a mask. In the tweet text, it specifically says, “You should wear a mask whenever you leave your house.”
An order would say something different, right? Such as: “You must wear a mask … ” But this tweet doesn’t say that at all:
🏠 Debe usar una mascarilla cada vez que salga de su casa.
😷 ¡Mi mascarilla lo protege, su mascarilla me protege a mí!
🏠 You should wear a mask whenever you leave your house.
😷 My mask protects you, your mask protects me!
— PA Department of Health (@PAHealthDept) April 22, 2020
That tweet was sent just 2 days after the so-called order was in effect in Pennsylvania.
Then, for 6 days after that, the Governor didn’t say a word about masks on social media.
In a tweet on April 28, Wolf shared one of many infographics, memes, GIFs and videos created to help their messaging efforts.
But he fails to say this is an order. In fact, he says, “The @CDCgov began to recommend wearing cloth masks in public after studies showed people can transmit COVID-19 without showing symptoms. My mask protects you, your mask protects me. #MaskUpPA”
The @CDCgov began to recommend wearing cloth masks in public after studies showed people can transmit COVID-19 without showing symptoms.
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) April 28, 2020
On April 30, Wolf sent out this cryptic tweet that doesn’t really say anything. He just follows some stale tweet form that uses emoji as bullet points. But instead of being clear, he remains vague on the masking order:
#COVID19 is a rapidly changing situation and our top priority is keeping people safe. Our guidance is based on the best available data and expert recommendations.
🏡 Statewide Stay at Home order
🔍 Assessing where we can begin phased reopenings
😷 Masking in public pic.twitter.com/H6GMhWIKcg
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) April 30, 2020
In this May 1 tweet, Wolf makes mention of masking but doesn’t say anything about a mandate.
We’ve finally made it to the moment of starting to reopen Pennsylvania.
Your actions will guide our future. Stick to social distancing, masking, and handwashing.
We only made it here by working together.
I am proud and humbled to be the governor of our great commonwealth.
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) May 1, 2020
“Stick to masking”?
On May 4, the Dept. of Health sent out this tweet (which Wolf retweeted) on masks. It just repeats the same line Levine uses every day since the so-called order was handed down on April 20:
My mask protects you, your mask protects me 😷
You can't always see if someone around you has a compromised immune system or underlying medical condition. Protect others from #COVID19 by wearing a mask when you leave home + keeping at least 6 feet between yourself + others. pic.twitter.com/te9OKhFUJZ
— PA Department of Health (@PAHealthDept) May 4, 2020
Notice how it’s just a bite-size lecture on how masks allegedly protect others around you. Again, nothing about an order.
The wishy-washy language only got wishy-washier after that.
Wolf tweeted this graphic on social media on May 7. Notice, it clearly says “encouraged” to wear masks, not ordered.
A day later, he tweeted this infographic outlining the specific points of the three color phases of his reopening plan for Pennsylvania.
Wolf didn’t mince words with us on Monday when he called us “cowardly” “immoral” and “selfish” so why is it so difficult for them to say that wearing a mask is mandatory?
So, are masks required in Pennsylvania? Our best guess: Probably
But what if some random Pennsylvanian only saw one of these public, very visible messages from the Governor or DOH? What if they saw “encouraged” and didn’t think twice about whether the mandate was lifted?
“Encouraged” is not required.
This is just one more example of mixed and confusing messages coming from Wolf and Levine during this entire pandemic response. It’s one of the many reasons why so many, like us here in Schuylkill County, decided to go their own way with reopening plans.
They just don’t trust the Governor or Levine anymore.
On July 1, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Health Secretary Rachel Levine signed an order making face masks mandatory in all public places in the state.
Masks are required in Pennsylvania when you’re:
- “Outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of 6 feet from individuals who are not members of their household.”
- “In any indoor location where members of the public are generally permitted.”
- “Waiting for, riding on, driving, or operating public transportation or paratransit or while in a taxi, private car service or ride-sharing vehicle.”
- “Obtaining services from the healthcare sector in settings including, but not limited to a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician, or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank.”
- “Engaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site, when interacting in-person with any member of the public, working in any space visited by members of the public, working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others, working in or walking through common areas, or in any room or enclosed area where other people, except for members of the person’s own household or residence, are present when unable to physically distance.”
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