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Secretary of Health Issues Expanded Masking, Out-of-state Travel Orders; Guidance for Higher Education and Health Care Institutions

November 17, 2020

Pennsylvania Secretary Health Rachel Levine, MD, today held a virtual press conference to discuss the recent spike in cases of COVID-19.

During the press conference, Secretary Levine outlined new mitigation efforts aimed at slowing the spread of the virus and, in turn, reducing the strain on hospitals and health systems. These new efforts include:

  • Strengthening the June universal masking order to require that masks be worn indoors when with people from different households, even when they are socially distanced. Masks are still required to be worn indoors in schools, gyms, offices, clinical settings, public transit, and anywhere food is prepared; and outdoors when people are unable to keep six feet of distance
  • Issuing a new order requiring anyone who comes to Pennsylvania from another state (visitors or those returning home from travel) to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival. If someone has not been tested, they are to isolate for 14 days before entering the state. If someone does get a test, but there is a lag in results, they are to isolate until they receive a negative result. This order does not apply to people who commute to or from Pennsylvania for work; although, Secretary Levine stressed the importance of telework and limiting travel whenever possible
  • Partnering with the state Department of Education to urge colleges and universities to develop and implement testing strategies, especially as students return from holiday breaks. This includes establishing routine protocols for screening, testing, and reporting; testing students at the beginning of each term and after breaks; ensuring there is adequate capacity for isolation and quarantine; and enforcing masking and social distancing policies

Secretary Levine also outlined the collaboration between the Department of Health and hospitals and health systems as cases continue to rise. Secretary Levine said that health care facilities have a great tradition of mutual aid and supporting each other to help patients. She said that the state Department of Health will continue to empower hospitals and health system leaders and clinical experts to determine whether any changes to scheduled surgeries are appropriate. 

Secretary Levine underscored that, especially as the holidays approach, every Pennsylvanian has a role to play in slowing the spread of COVID-19. She urged everyone to continue to wear masks and practice extreme caution when interacting with people from other households. Acknowledging the difficulty and sacrifices that Pennsylvanians already have made, she urged people not to travel for the holidays.

In a statement released yesterday, HAP president and CEO Andy Carter said that hospitals continue to closely monitor the situation within and beyond Pennsylvania’s borders. He said that, “The hospital community enjoys close partnerships with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and public health experts. Regional cooperation among hospitals, medical providers, and the government is at an all-time high.”

“Patients should not delay important care—scheduled or emergent—due to fears of COVID-19,” Carter continued. “Delaying medical care could cause serious problems in the long term. Hospitals have precautions in place to protect patients and staff from exposure and are safe places to get screenings, treatment, or emergency services. Patients should contact their provider to get their care on track or if they think they are sick; they should call 9-1-1 if they are experiencing a medical emergency.”

For more information contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s senior vice president, strategic integration, or Robert Shipp, PhD, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, HAP’s vice president, population health and clinical affairs.