HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The end of pandemic restrictions is near and the state sets a metric for Pennsylvanians to ditch their masks. It’s arguably the most positive development since the beginning of the pandemic.
Majority Leader Representative Kerry Benninghoff says, “We’re pleased to have gotten to this point after 14 months.”
All Covid restrictions in the Commonwealth, minus the masks, will be lifted on May 31.
“It’s a big deal,” says Gene Barr, the president of the Pa. chamber of business and industry. “Businesses want to get back, it’s been over a year they’ve been shut down, they’ve reduced revenue, they’ve laid off people, people are looking to get back to normal and this is a big piece of that.”
Pennsylvania can unmask once 70% of those 18 or older are vaccinated. That’s about 7.1 million people, according to the state health department. Currently, the CDC says 41.8% of those 18 or older are fully vaccinated.
“Not being fully vaccinated, meaning not having enough people who are vaccinated, still puts us all at risk,” said State Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson.
The state won’t estimate when or if herd immunity will happen. But Dr. Johnson says not vaccinating helps the virus keep circulating.
“The risk for us is that the pandemic won’t end,” added Johnson.
But the restrictions will. Just after Memorial Day, a few weeks later than New Jersey, New York and Connecticut which will lift their restrictions on May 19.
“A little frustrated we’re seeing states around who have moved faster on this,” Benninghoff said. “At the end of the day, we’re getting people vaccinated that want to be and we’re getting business open.”
The ruling does not supersede local control. Municipalities and school districts can still impose stricter regulations than those of the state if they choose to.