For restriction-weary Pennsylvanians, an end may be in sight.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, in coordination with the COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force, announced that mitigation orders — except masking — will be lifted on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, at 12:01 a.m.
Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam Tuesday said that as the state continues to make significant progress in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and as more adults get vaccinated — and guidance from the CDC evolves — the state can continue to move forward with its reopening efforts.
“I encourage Pennsylvanians to take the critical steps needed to put this pandemic behind us by getting vaccinated, follow through with both doses if you receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, and continue to take steps like masking, frequent hand washing and sanitizing and social distancing,” Beam said.
The capacity restrictions on bars, restaurants and indoor and outdoor gatherings will go away on May 31, more than a year into the pandemic.
Pennsylvania revised its masking order last week to bring it in line with new federal recommendations that say fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear them outside anymore unless they’re at a crowded event.
The Health Department said that municipalities and school districts can continue to impose their own restrictions. And other state mandates, including a requirement that hospitals and long-term care facilities report new infections, will remain.
The current order requiring Pennsylvanians to wear masks will be lifted when 70% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated, Beam said. Face coverings are required to be worn indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home. In accordance with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, fully vaccinated Pennsylvanians are not required to wear a mask during certain activities.
Requirements such as testing and reporting new cases will remain in place for hospitals and long-term care facilities. Maintaining requirements for hospitals and long-term care facilities will allow Pennsylvania to continue to closely monitor COVID-19 spread while lifting other restrictions.
The Department of Health recommends that Pennsylvanians refer to CDC guidance and recommendations regarding ongoing COVID-19 safety measures and procedures.
State Sen. John Yudichak, I-Swoyersville, said as Gov. Tom Wolf moves to lift the Department of Health’s COVID-19 mitigation orders, he applauds the toughness of our health care heroes who worked to keep the public safe.
“And I salute the resilience of our essential workers who worked to keep food on our tables throughout the pandemic,” Yudichak said. “I am proud of every Pennsylvanian who stepped up to mitigate the impact of the novel coronavirus on our community and our most vulnerable citizens. I look forward to getting Pennsylvanians safely back to work, our children back in the classroom, and getting our economy growing again.”
Beam said these updates will not prevent municipalities and school districts from continuing and implementing stricter mitigation efforts.
Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, said he was extremely pleased to see the restrictions rolled back.
“This would not have been possible without millions of our neighbors getting vaccinated,” Mullery said. “But, we have not reached the finish line and will not truly return to normal until all those eligible are vaccinated.”
Mullery said the sooner those remaining are vaccinated, the sooner the last of the restrictions will be lifted.
“I strongly urge all those eligible to get vaccinated,” he said.
Sen. Ryan Aument said while the restrictions that were put in place at the outset of the pandemic have been a major source of frustration for many Pennsylvanians and businesses, it is the collaborative work of this bipartisan Task Force that is allowing the state to finally roll back the restrictions and get back to normal life.
Rep. Bridget Kosierowski, D-Waverly Township, said she is proud of the progress made with vaccinations throughout Pennsylvania.
”Lifting mitigation orders on Memorial Day and announcing that masking orders will be lifted once 70% of Pennsylvania’s adults are fully vaccinated are all benefits from following the scientific medical research and data,” Kosierowski said. “Many sacrifices had been made over the past year while we waited for help. The help is now here in the form of a vaccine and we must do everything we can to encourage everyone to receive their vaccination so we can overcome this pandemic. Let’s follow the science, because it’s the path to us all returning to normalcy.”
Beam noted that the governor’s Proclamation of Disaster Emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic remains in place.
All Pennsylvanians ages 16 and older are eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine. The provider map is available on the Department of Health’s website. Pennsylvanians with questions about the vaccination process can call the Department of Health hotline at 1-877-724-3258.
GOP Leader responds
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) responded to the announcement by the Department of Health that COVID-19 mitigation orders, other than the mask mandate, will be lifted by May 31, 2021.
“Over the last 14 months, Pennsylvanians have had to not only endure the health impacts and threats of a global pandemic, but have also struggled through government mitigation orders that picked winners and losers and unfairly targeted certain industries over others,” Benninghoff said.
“Today’s announcement is undoubtedly welcomed news for a Commonwealth that has suffered for far too long under unilateral and often confusing mitigation orders that have done untold damage to our children’s education, our economy and Pennsylvania’s future. Unfortunately for many hard-working Pennsylvanians trying to live the American dream, this announcement might come too late.
Benninghoff added that the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus will continue to prioritize the Commonwealth’s economic recovery.