Virus Outbreak Pennsylvania Masks

People waiting in line to enter a grocery store wear COVID-19 protective masks, Friday, July 3, 2020, in McCandless, Pa. 

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey encouraged residents on Tuesday to follow Gov. Tom Wolf’s universal masking mandate, despite continued pushback from some legislative Republicans.

Casey, a Democrat, and Toomey, a Republican, released a joint statement with the administration and state Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester and Sen. Pam Iovino, D-Allegheny, pushing the effort as scientifically sound and key to reopening the economy.

“As the commonwealth continues to reopen, mask wearing has taken on increased significance, as studies continue to affirm that masks helps slow the spread of the coronavirus,” said Toomey, who notes he’s supported the recommendation since March. “Put simply, wearing a mask is an important step that we, as Pennsylvanians, can take to protect one another – as my mask protects you, and your mask protects me.”

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed an order July 1 mandating masks in public when social distancing isn’t possible. The rule expands upon guidance in April that required residents to wear masks inside businesses. Enforcement remains a local decision.

“Public health experts continue to recommend mask-wearing in public, and ongoing research continues to support that recommendation,” Casey said. “When you wear a mask, you are sending a clear message to others in your community that you care about them and their well-being as much as your own. I know that if we each do our part, we will beat this virus and be able to start safely rebuilding together.”

GOP members of the House criticized the administration last week for months of mixed messages on the issue, pivoting back and forth between whether the face coverings were required or just recommended.

State Reps. Mike Jones, Daryl Metcalfe, Russ Diamond, Stephanie Borowicz and David Rowe, in a joint statement, questioned what science actually backs up the mandate and whether his advice even remains credible.

Wolf told reporters Monday he thinks residents should wear masks until a vaccine becomes available next year. He said he doesn’t envision enacting sweeping shut downs again, but would rather the state focus on broader efforts – like masking, contact tracing and improved testing capabilities.

“I didn’t meant to make it sound like I was passing the buck to the counties. What I meant is that the state can do broad based things, like wearing a mask,” he said. “But I think to the extent that there’s an outbreak that has a local cause, it ought to be dealt with at that level.

"We are doing everything we can do at the state to avoid going back to these blunt instruments, like closing everything.”

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania's General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.