On May 27, 2021, Pennsylvania Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam announced at a press conference that Pennsylvania’s statewide masking order is slated to be lifted in its entirety effective June 28, 2021. This announcement comes on the heels of the Wolf Administration’s May 4, 2021 announcement that all COVID mitigation orders in Pennsylvania would be lifted effective May 31, 2021, except for the masking order. The May 27 announcement reflects a change of course that sets a firm expiration on the masking requirements, regardless of the Commonwealth’s vaccination rate at that time.
Pennsylvania’s masking order, which was amended March 17, 2021, incorporates by reference the CDC’s Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People under its exceptions from the statewide masking requirements. As such, the masking requirements under the order were effectively lifted for those who have been fully vaccinated (except for in certain limited circumstances, pursuant to CDC guidance), but still applied to those who were not fully vaccinated. At the May 27 press conference, Acting Health Secretary Beam stated that, even once the statewide masking order is lifted, Pennsylvania should continue to follow CDC guidance for wearing a mask. However, the lifting of the masking order indicates that such compliance will be recommended, but not required under state order. That certainly is an important point for which Pennsylvania employers will seek clarity as they eagerly take steps towards returning their workforce to the workplace.
It is important to note that these changes to Pennsylvania’s COVID mitigation requirements, including masking, pertain only to the statewide orders. Pennsylvania businesses must comply with stricter requirements established under local law or orders, and both businesses and localities are permitted to set stricter COVID mitigation measures than those that exist at the state level.
As businesses look towards fully reopening in the coming weeks and months, it is important for them to pay close attention to any local orders that may still require masking or other mitigation efforts. Additionally, even in the absence of a statewide or local order, businesses should remain apprised of CDC and OSHA guidance and develop appropriate workplace policies to ensure a safe and productive work environment for their personnel.
Reed Smith’s Labor and Employment team is ready to assist you and your business with any questions or concerns that might arise, and will continue to closely monitor developments related to the lifting of mitigation orders in the Commonwealth.