Pa. Health Dept. not considering new mask mandate despite CDC reversal

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Department of Health says it is not considering a statewide mask mandate, despite new guidelines from the CDC about masking.

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On Tuesday the CDC reversed its guidance about masking for vaccinated people. Now it recommends that vaccinated people wear masks indoors when they’re in areas of high or substantial transmission.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the agency is also advising everyone to wear masks in schools.

This comes just a couple of months after the CDC said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks. But there has been a recent lag in getting vaccination rates as high as health officials had hoped.

“This moment and most importantly the associated illness, suffering, and death could have been avoided with higher vaccination coverage in this country,” Walensky said.

The CDC said data about breakthrough cases motivated their decision. They have been seeing rare instances where vaccinated people are getting and transmitting the Delta variant.

However, they pointed out that most transmission of the virus is still happening among the unvaccinated.

In the Midstate, only Adams County is seeing substantial Covid transmission. All other counties in the area are experiencing moderate or low spread of the virus, according to data from the CDC.

But Dr. Mohammad Ali with Penn State Health says these new guidelines send a message to Pennsylvanians about the pandemic.

“This is a reality check probably that perhaps this is not gone. The pandemic is still here. Perhaps not in our neighborhood because most people are vaccinated in our part of the United States. But lots of counties, lots of states,” Ali said.

His advice is to choose for yourself when and where to use a mask, depending on your own health situation.

“In my opinion it all boils down to what somebody is comfortable with,” Ali said.

The CDC acknowledged that the decision to reverse its recommendation will probably be unpopular with many Americans who are tired of Covid rules.

“It is not a welcome piece of news that masking is going to be a part of people’s lives who have already been vaccinated,” Walensky said. “This new guidance weighs heavily on me and I just want to convey that this was not a decision that was taken lightly.”

But the goal is for the masking guidance to be temporary, until we can reduce transmission of the virus.

“Masking right now, especially for those unvaccinated is the temporary measure. What we really need to do to drive down these transmissions in areas of high transmission is to get more and more people vaccinated and in the meantime to use masks,” Walensky said.

“Get vaccinated as soon as possible. At the end of the day having immunity is the only way to fight this virus,” Ali said.

Although the Pa. Department of Health is not planning to issue a masking mandate, they did say that businesses and local governments within Pennsylvania are allowed to require masks.

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