Cases of the Chinese coronavirus have risen significantly in Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) Pennsylvania over the past week, despite state leaders instituting statewide mask mandates requiring Pennsylvanians to wear masks in most social situations.
On Thursday, the Pennsyvlania Department of Health reported 9,966 new cases of the virus and 224 new deaths, bringing the statewide total to 529,335 cumulative cases and 13,391 related deaths. The state’s death toll from the virus is now 13,391, thousands of which stem from nursing homes and personal care facilities. The day prior, December 16, the department reported 10,049 new cases.
Democrat governors, particularly, have emphasized the importance of wearing masks, including Gov. Wolf, who instituted stringent lockdown orders leading to mass protests earlier this year.
He and Rachel Levine, the state’s first openly transgender health secretary, have issued mitigation strategies throughout the pandemic. On April 15, for example, Levine required “mitigation measures to be applied at businesses that are permitted to engage in in-person operations, including a requirement that all customers wear masks while on the premises of businesses that serve the public within a building or a defined area and directs businesses to deny entry to individuals not wearing masks” in most situations, with few exceptions.
The leaders doubled down on their mask order on July 1, requiring individuals to wear masks when leaving their homes in both indoor and outdoor situations.
“It is essential that Pennsylvanians wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Levine said at the time. “While cases increase in some areas, we cannot become complacent.”
“My mask protects you, and your mask protects me. Wearing a mask shows that you care about others, and that you are committed to protecting the lives of those around you,” he added.
In November, state leaders again tightened the statewide mask orders, requiring individuals two and older to wear a mask in most social situations, including indoors “where another person or persons who are not members of the individual’s household are present in the same space, irrespective of physical distance.”
Per the order, other situations include:
- Outdoors with others who are not members of a person’s household and unable to maintain sustained physical distance.
- As permitted in my Order Directing Mitigation Measures, dated July 15, 2020, as amended, for participation in an indoor or outdoor event, gathering, or group setting where another person or persons, who are not members of the individual’s household are present.
- Participating in indoor physical activity in a gym, fitness center or group fitness classes, where another person or persons who are not members of the individual’s household are present in the same space, irrespective of physical distance.
- Waiting in a public area for, riding on, driving or operating public transportation or paratransit or while in a taxi, private car service or ride-sharing vehicle, irrespective of physical distance.
- Obtaining services for themselves or another person or a pet from the health care sector in settings including, but not limited to, a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank.
- When working in any space where food is prepared, packaged for sale, or prepared for distribution to others.
- Certain facilities—including hospitals, shelters, long-term care facilities, residential treatment facilities, and correctional facilities—may also require visitors and residents, patients, or inmates to wear face coverings even when in a living unit.
Exceptions are few, exempting those with medical conditions or certain disabilities and individuals who are working alone.
Levine claims that previous mitigation efforts implemented in the spring “successfully saved lives” but did not expressly explain why the state is experiencing a spike dispite some of the nation’s most stringent measures, some of which have been in place for months:
Despite the mitigation efforts that were implemented in the spring and successfully saved lives, the pandemic continues to spread, and taking action to prevent that spread while continuing to allow for necessary resumption of economic and social activity requires the Commonwealth to take steps to ensure that participation in those activities contributes as little danger as possible to the people of the Commonwealth.
Wolf and Levine announced further restrictions last week, suspending indoor dining and prohibiting private gatherings that exceed ten individuals.
The latest set of restrictions do not expire until January 4, 2021.
The rise in coronavirus cases nationwide coincides with a DANMASK-19 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, which found no statistical significance between mask-wearers and non-mask wearers in becoming infected with the virus.