Throughout the commonwealth, businesses and residents of Pennsylvania are doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep themselves, their families, their customers and their communities safe – most notably by wearing masks in all businesses and whenever leaving home. The Wolf administration has issued a series of orders since March with the single goal of protecting Pennsylvanians from COVID-19, which has claimed more than 7,000 lives in the state.
The Wolf administration has stressed the importance of mask-wearing as paramount to helping stop the spread of COVID-19. Combined with social distancing, this simple act can protect people and businesses and help increase our freedoms.
Per the Secretary of Health’s order, businesses must 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 such goods.
There are limited exceptions to the mask order, which include those who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition, those for whom wearing a mask would create an unsafe condition, individuals who would be unable to remove a mask without assistance, individuals under the age of 2, and individuals who are communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired or has another disability where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
The current mitigation orders in place include worker safety, building safety, required mask-wearing, and the July 15 targeted mitigation orders. Along with a focus on voluntary compliance, several state and local agencies are responsible for enforcing these important health and safety mandates. Pennsylvanians can play a role by appropriately reporting suspected violations of these orders put in place to keep people safe.
The Secretary of Health’s orders were issued pursuant to the authority granted to her under the law, and it has the force and effect of law. As with all current orders, if citations were to be issued, they would be issued pursuant to Pennsylvania’s Disease Control and Prevention Act of 1955, 35 P.S. § 521.20(a) and The Administrative Code of 1929, 71 P. S. § 1409, which are the same statutory sections that were used for business closure enforcement.
All local law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania can enforce the Worker Health and Safety Measures, Building Safety, mask-wearing and July 15 targeted mitigation orders. The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) has issued 52 warnings related to orders to date.
The State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement conducts hundreds of compliance checks each day at licensed liquor establishments to ensure licensees are complying with masking, social distancing and other requirements, in particular the July 15 targeted mitigation orders. Regular updates are posted at psp.pa.gov
Workers are encouraged to first communicate with their employer if they feel they are not being appropriately protected in their workplace. If that does not produce the desired result, a worker can reach out directly to local law enforcement via a non-emergency number, or to the Department of Health and fill out a COVID-19 complaint form, available at https://expressforms.pa.gov/apps/pa/doh/COVID-19-Complaint
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture enforces the Secretary of Health’s order as it relates to restaurants and other retail food facilities, including prohibitions or limits on dine-in services and masking requirements through the issuance of warnings and fines.