Pennsylvania sets firm date to lift mask mandate, even if vaccination goal isn't hit

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Thursday, May 27, 2021
Pa. sets date to lift mask mandate, even if vaccination goal isn't hit
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Pennsylvania's mask order will be completely lifted June 28, or when 70% of residents are fully vaccinated - whichever comes first.

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Health officials announced Thursday that Pennsylvania's mask order will be completely lifted June 28, or possibly sooner, if 70% of residents get their second dose of vaccine.

"After reviewing the vaccination data for people 18 and over and discussing it with the COVID-19 Vaccine Legislative Task Force, we have determined that the commonwealth's mask order can be lifted on June 28 or when 70% of adults get their second dose, whichever comes first," Acting Secretary Alison Beam said.

The announcement does not impact Philadelphia. Health officials in Philadelphia have previously said the mask mandate may be lifted for fully vaccinated people on June 11, but that depends on COVID cases and vaccination rates.

RELATED: Mask or no mask? What you need to know about mask guidelines across the Delaware Valley

Beam said that as of Wednesday, 70% of adults in the state have received at least one dose of vaccine.

"That's a strong indicator that we are on track to get at least that many getting both doses by the end of June," she said.

To date, 52.7% of the 18 and older population are fully vaccinated. According to the CDC, 97.7% of Pennsylvanians over 65 have received at least one dose of vaccine.

There has been success, but the virus is still spreading. The Action News Data Journalism team found the levels of transmission are considered substantial in Philadelphia, Bucks and Delaware counties.

Transmission is moderate in Montgomery County and it is high in Chester County.

Despite this, new cases are down dramatically. In most of our counties, from April to May, there has been over a 70% decrease in COVID cases.

"This is what we were hoping for. This is what every medical professional was waiting for," said Dr. Eric Sachinwalla with Einstein Medical Center.

The vaccine has proven to be a silver lining but medical experts say COVID is likely not going away.

"The long-term outlook is that this is going to be a virus that is with us forever now, just a lot more manageable numbers and not the severe illness that we were seeing before," said Sachinwalla.

This is good news for those who are vaccinated, but those who are not are still at risk.

"At this stage, many of our deaths feel preventable because they are the unvaccinated individuals that are not only catching COVID but succumbing to COVID," said Beam.

Once the statewide masking order is lifted, Pennsylvania will continue to follow the CDC guidance for wearing a mask where required by law, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

The CDC is still requiring masks on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation. In addition, all individuals should still follow the guidance at workplaces, local businesses, long-term care facilities, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.