Pennsylvanians can look forward to this Memorial Day. The Wolf administration, in conjunction with the COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force, will lift the state mitigation orders–except for wearing masks–on May 31.
In an announcement Tuesday, the administration also said that when 70 percent of residents age 18 and older are fully vaccinated, the requirement to wear face coverings will also be rescinded. At the moment, the state requires people to wear masks when they are away from home, both indoors and outdoors, although fully vaccinated people are not required to wear them during certain activities, according to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.
However, Philadelphia is not prepared to lift its local rules. The Inquirer reports the city “will review the state’s policy but retain its own restrictions. Officials are working on the city’s reopening plans.”
State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) and Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) issued the following statement: “Today’s announcement by Gov. Wolf is welcome news for small employers, who have suffered greatly under the Wolf Administration’s unilateral mandates for more than a year. While this is one holiday Pennsylvania bars and restaurants can celebrate for opening instead of condemning for closing, the restrictions announced today are broad, and Gov. Wolf still has the power to change his mind at any time to arbitrarily reinstitute these restrictions without consent of the General Assembly.
“The bipartisan COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force deserves a great deal of the credit for how far we have come in the fight against the pandemic, as they helped initiate the biggest COVID-19 vaccine turnaround in the country,” the statement said. “Pennsylvania ranked 49th in vaccine distribution before the Task Force was formed; today, we rank among the best states in the nation. This is just another example that proves the General Assembly is willing and able to contribute in a positive way to emergency response. It serves as a strong reminder that government works best when all branches are involved and all parties work together.”
“With millions of Pennsylvanians getting vaccinated, it’s time to plan the transition back to normal,” said Sen. Art Haywood (D-Montgomery County). “Hospitalizations and deaths are down. This action today is a key step forward.”
As the pandemic was tightening its grip on the country on March 13, 2020, Wolf announced a two-week shutdown of public schools. On March 19, 2020, he told all “non-life sustaining businesses” to close as of March 21.
As of Tuesday, some 1,161,619 Pennsylvanians have contracted COVID-19 and 26,334 have died, according to the state Department of Health.
“We continue to make significant progress in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and as more Pennsylvania adults get vaccinated and guidance from the CDC evolves, we can continue to move forward with our reopening efforts,” said Alison Beam, Department of Health acting secretary. “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.”
Everyone over age 16 is eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination. The governor’s Proclamation of Disaster Emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic remains in force.