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DOH mask mandate allows for homemade masks

A statewide order compelling employers to require all employees and customers to wear masks in their facilities will not be postponed despite a lack of available supplies.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine signed the order on April 15. The requirement goes into effect on Sunday. Failure to comply could result in fines and citations.

It is unclear how aggressively the state’s departments will enforce the order. In a phone call with press on Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf referred to the order as a set of guidelines when asked if the order would be enforced by the Pennsylvania State Police.

“Businesses are responsible for ensuring that customers abide by the protocols pertaining to customers, and the appropriate enforcement agencies are responsible for ensuring that employers abide by the protocols pertaining to employers and employees,” said Elizabeth Rementer, deputy press secretary for the Office of the Governor. “Law enforcement has been tasked with ensuring that businesses are aware that the order exists and notifying businesses that a complaint of noncompliance was received.”

During a press conference on Thursday, Levine said she would not delay the start date past April 19 for any industry.

“We recommend that if someone comes to a retailer or a grocery store and doesn’t have a mask, that they be asked to go back home and get a mask,” Levine said. “If the store has extra masks they can certainly give one and that would be great.”

The Department of Health has since released further guidance on the order, noting that masks can be obtained or made by employers or employees but must be approved by the employer in accordance with department guidelines.

Masks can be non-medical-grade and when masks aren’t available, the department also recommends using a scarf or bandana.

Levine’s order also specifies that if an employee contracts COVID-19, businesses must implement temperature screenings before employees can enter the business prior. When asked what a business should do if they purchase no-contact thermometers that cannot be delivered before Sunday, Levine said they can reach out to the department for support.

Ioannis Pashakis
Ioannis Pashakis covers health care, the gig economy, cannabis and technology. Email him at ipashakis@bridgetowermedia.com.

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