Despite green status of opening, Governor reminds state that masks are still needed

Governor Tom Wolf noted that research confirms the importance of wearing masks to stop the spread of COVID-19 and that Pennsylvanians are required to wear masks when entering any business in all counties in both yellow and green phases of reopening.

“As most counties are in or will soon be in the green phase of reopening, mask-wearing is a vital measure to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Wolf said. “Pennsylvania has emerged as a leader among states for reduced cases amid increased reopening and we want that to continue to keep people safe and healthy while returning to many of the activities we enjoyed before COVID.”

The mask requirement is part of Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel’s Levine’s order, “Directing Public Health Safety Measures for Businesses Permitted to Maintain In-person Operations,” which pertains to all counties regardless of the phase of reopening. The order requires businesses to enforce mask-wearing unless someone has an underlying health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. Children two or younger are not required to wear masks.

According to a recent study in the Institute of Physics, wearing simple medical masks or improvised facial coverings reduces community exposures from asymptomatic, but unknowingly infectious, individuals.

The study concludes that while people may perceive them to be ineffective or burdensome to wear, “wearing some form of exhaled barrier (mask) out in public during pathogen outbreaks is an altruistic act serving not only as a form of enhanced cough or sneeze etiquette, but also to reduce the aerosols emitted from normal breathing or when talking. Without daily testing, nobody can be certain that they are not an asymptotic disease vector. Scientifically, this is a positive step towards helping combat the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams took to Twitter on Sunday to advise that mask-wearing is contributing to and not infringing on freedom, tweeting in part, “Some feel face coverings infringe on their freedom of choice- but if more wear them, we’ll have MORE freedom to go out.”

In addition to mask wearing, Gov. Wolf and Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine have advised that robust testing and contact tracing in green counties are keys to safe, phased reopening.

The state continues to increase testing and ramp up contact-tracing efforts. As of June 18 (the most recent data available), there are a total of 518 contact tracers, and a total of 4,161 contacts being monitored.

The Department of Health received a total of 89,350 test results in the past seven days, an average of 12,764 a day. The 30-day average of test results received is more than 13,934.

There were 2,763 total cases added to investigations for the week of June 12 through 18.

“Mask-wearing needs to be a part of our everyday routines,” Gov. Wolf said. “When you leave the house, grab your keys, your wallet and your mask. Mask-wearing has proven to be an important deterrent to the spread of the virus and keeping Pennsylvanians safe and healthy is the goal as we reopen and continue our mitigation efforts.”

The state’s business guidance outlines mask-wearing requirements and additional safety parameters for both employees and customers.

According to figures released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania added 495 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday. The state has 83,191 cases of the virus since the first case was discovered in March.

The death toll was increased by 54 souls on Wednesday, putting the count at 6,515.

Dauphin County added 13 new cases and five deaths to their totals, while Northumberland County added one new case and one death and Schuylkill County added two new cases. The current counts of cases in the three counties of the Citizen-Standard coverage area stands with Dauphin County at a total to 1,864 cases with 127 deaths, Schuylkill stands at 721 cases with 43 deaths, and Northumberland County is at 281 cases and five deaths.

In comparison, Philadelphia County, the hot spot of the state, added 126 cases and 12 deaths on Tuesday, putting their totals at 20,949 positive cases and 1,576 deaths since the coronavirus first hit in March..

Officials say that the public’s effort to fight and prevent the spread of the disease must continue.

“As we move closer to having the entire state in the green phase, we must remain committed to protecting against COVID-19,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Pennsylvania has been a model for the country on how to reopen effectively using a careful, measured approach. However, the virus has not gone away. Each of us has a responsibility to continue to protect ourselves, our loved ones and others by wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and washing our hands frequently. Together we can protect our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians, our essential workers and our healthcare system.”

As far as negative tests for each county, Dauphin is listed as having 16,288 negative tests while Schuylkill reported 7,201 negative tests and 2,780 in Northumberland County.

Currently 714 Pennsylvania residents are hospitalized with the virus and its complications, down 28 from Tuesday.

In nursing and personal care homes, there are 17,394 resident cases of COVID-19, and 3,103 cases among employees, for a total of 20,497 at 671 distinct facilities in 49 counties. Out of our total deaths, 4,467 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities. Approximately 6,303 of our total cases are in health care workers.

The counties affected and the number of confirmed cases, with the number of deaths in parentheses, are:

Adams-321 (12), Allegheny-2,284 (180), Armstrong-70 (6), Beaver-634 (78), Bedford-71 (2), Berks-4,453 (347), Blair-69 (1), Bradford-51 (3), Bucks-5,619 (559), Butler-277 (13), Cambria- 62 (3), Cameron-2, Carbon-271 (25), Centre-196 (6), Chester-3,559 (319), Clarion-33 (2), Clearfield-70, Clinton-73 (3), Columbia-398 (33), Crawford-48, Cumberland-809 (61), Dauphin-1,864 (127), Delaware-7,079 (643), Elk-10, Erie-551 (9), Fayette-104 (4), Forest-7, Franklin-896 (42), Fulton-18 (1), Greene-35, Huntingdon-242 (4), Indiana-98 (6), Jefferson-21 (1), Juniata-109 (5), Lackawanna-1,638 (201), Lancaster-4,152 (352), Lawrence-94 (9), Lebanon-1,278 (42), Lehigh-4,130 (284), Luzerne-2,874 (173), Lycoming-175 (19), McKean-15 (1), Mercer-120 (6), Mifflin-61 (1), Monroe-1,384 (108), Montgomery-8,188 (791), Montour-68, Northampton-3,339 (259), Northumberland-281 (5), Perry-85 (5), Philadelphia-20,949 (1,576), Pike-489 (20), Potter-14, Schuylkill-721 (43), Snyder-61 (2), Somerset-49 (1), Sullivan-3, Susquehanna-178 (21), Tioga-23 (2), Union-89 (2), Venango-17, Warren-5, Washington-176 (6), Wayne-131 (9), Westmoreland-563 (38), Wyoming-37 (7), York-1,400 (40).

As of midnight June 24, there have been 608,217 negative tests for the coronavirus. The state also said that 77 percent of the confirmed cases have recovered. If a case has not been reported as a death, and it is more than 30 days past the date of their first positive test (or onset of symptoms) then an individual is considered recovered.

The two stages of reopening and the counties that are in them are:

Yellow counties — Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Erie,  Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Sullivan, and Susquehanna. (All but Lebanon moves to green on Friday, June 26).

Green counties — Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Bradford, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Elk, Fayette, Forest, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lawrence, Luzerne, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Mifflin, Monroe Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Somerset, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Washington, Wayne,Westmoreland, Wyoming and York.

What is coronavirus?

According to the Pa. Department of Health, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common throughout the world. These viruses can live in animals and at times, evolve and infect people before spreading through human to human contact.

Human coronaviruses are spread just like the common cold or the flu either through the air through coughing or sneezing, through close personal contact like touching or shaking hands, or by touching an object or surface with the virus on it.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The symptoms can appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after a person is exposed to the illness. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to severe illness and death. As of June 23, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reports there have been 2,302,288 cases of the Coronavirus reported in the U.S. with 120,333 deaths.

What can you do?

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
Clean surfaces frequently.
Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
If you must go out for a life-sustaining reason, please wear a mask.
The Pa. Department of Health offers these guidelines as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

Stay home as much as possible. Try to get groceries once per week instead of daily. Freedom of travel remains, but please refrain from non-essential travel. Essential travel includes things like commuting to an essential job, picking up supplies like groceries and medicine, and checking on family and pets in other households. Do not host or attend gatherings.