On July 1, 2020, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed an order expanding face covering–wearing requirements in Pennsylvania. Under the order, face coverings must now be worn almost any time an individual leaves home, including in most outdoor settings.

Effective July 1, 2020, people in Pennsylvania must wear face coverings when “outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet from [non-household members]”; when “in any indoor location where members of the public are generally permitted”; when waiting for or riding on public transit (including riding in taxis and ride-sharing vehicles); when obtaining healthcare services; and when performing work (whether in the workplace or off-site). The order defines “face covering” as “a covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears, or is wrapped around the lower face.” Plastic face shields, hand-sewn masks, bandanas, and t-shirts all fall under this definition.

It is worth noting, however, that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) July 16, 2020, update, “Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings,” states, “CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings. Some people may choose to use a face shield when sustained close contact with other people is expected. If face shields are used without a mask, they should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend to below the chin.” In addition, Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), has discouraged the idea of using face shields instead of face masks.

Exceptions to the face-covering requirement under Pennsylvania’s order are provided for the following individuals:

  • “Individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition, including those with respiratory issues that impede breathing, mental health condition, or disability”
  • “Individuals for whom wearing a mask while working would create an unsafe condition [under] local, state, or federal regulations or workplace safety guidelines”
  • “Individuals who would be unable to remove a mask without assistance”
  • Individuals under the age of two
  • “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”

Individuals who claim to fall under one of these exceptions are not required to show supporting documentation.

This order expands on Dr. Levine’s April 19, 2020, business safety order, which required employers to make wearing masks on worksites mandatory and to provide such masks to employees during work hours. While that order required businesses that serve the public to require customers to wear masks on their premises and to deny service to individuals not wearing masks (except in certain circumstances), it was silent on the wearing of masks in outdoor public spaces and specifically excluded healthcare providers.

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar programs.