Hosting holiday dinners? Don your apron—and your mask

HARRISBURG—Pennsylvanians can look forward to tighter restrictions over the holidays, with a new directive announced Tuesday by Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, which requires anyone who travels to Pennsylvania from another state be tested for COVID-19 72 hours prior to arrival, and encourages people to wear masks at home if hosting guests.

“Today, we received our weekly report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The report says there is now aggressive, unrelenting, expanding, broad community spread, reaching most counties without evidence of improvement. In Pennsylvania, we continue to see the number of new COVID-19 cases rising, our percent of positivity rising, our hospitalizations rising, as well as the number of Pennsylvanians critically ill rising,” Levine said. “We are taking targeted and strategic actions.”

Interstate travel guidelines

The new guidelines, which go into effect Friday, Nov. 20, require anyone who visits Pennsylvania from another state get a COVID test within 72 hours before entering the state.

Those who do not have negative test results, should quarantine for 14 days or until they get a negative test result.

In addition, Pennsylvania residents who travel to other states must follow the same test/quarantine rules when they return home.

State officials will not police travelers, however.

“We have no plans at this time to be checking for tests as people come off airplanes or drive into Pennsylvania,” Levine said. “I think what we’re all asking in all of our states is for people to not travel. We really want people to stay at home and in their households.”

Levine said the quarantine/test rule does not apply to those who commute to another state for work.

“We do recommend you telework whenever possible,” Levine said.

Indoor mask order

Levine also strengthened the mask order Tuesday urging the necessity to wear masks whenever around other people—indoors and outdoors.

“Wearing a mask is one of the simplest steps we can take to slow the spread,” she said. “It is critical we wear masks whenever around other people.”

“When indoors, masks will be required anytime you are with people outside your household even if you are socially distanced,” she explained, saying the rule applies if you have people inside your home who don’t reside in your house.

“We must all be diligent in wearing masks all the time,” Levine added.

Levine said there won’t be police going door-to-door or to businesses to enforce mandates.

“It really is the responsibility of businesses to enforce the universal masking orders” she said, adding, “We don’t want businesses as they enforce those to lead to conflict.”

Also this week, the DOH and Department of Education issued recommendations for colleges and universities to test all students at the beginning of each term, when returning after break and to provide adequate capacity for on-campus isolation and quarantine.

The guidelines stop short of another lockdown.

Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf said he had no plans for a statewide lockdown as he did in the spring and Levine echoed that Tuesday.

“We have no plans to go back to the red, yellow and green,” she said.

“We are asking everyone to stand united and stop the spread in Pennsylvania,” Levine said. “These targeted measures are extremely important. Whether we have to do anything else depends upon the public. Each one of us taking responsibility for the common good of Pennsylvania. If we all do our part … if people do not follow measures and the numbers increase, then I can’t predict the future and what may be necessary.”

For now, masking is the simplest way to prevent not only the spread of the virus, but further measures, according to Levine.

“We all are blessed to have freedoms in this country, but with freedom comes responsibility,” Levine cautioned. “Right now, that means following these orders and guidance in terms of stopping the spread of COVID-19.”