Pennsylvania will lift its coronavirus mask mandate by June 28th, but if at least 70% of the state’s adults get fully vaccinated, then the end of the mandate could come earlier.
Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam made the announcement Thursday as she highlighted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures that show more than 70% of adult Pennsylvanians have received at least one dose and nearly 53% are fully vaccinated .
Beam said the state will continue to follow CDC guidance on masking. The latest guidance suggests fully vaccinated people can largely stop wearing masks both indoors and outdoors, but it does still call for masks in crowded indoor settings.
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
“Businesses, municipalities and school districts my continue requiring to wear a mask. Likewise, some folks may make the personal choice to continue wearing a mask,” she said. “We ask that Pennsylvanians continue to be kind and respectful to each other as we continue to fight COVID-19 in our communities.”
Beam said the state is at a “point of transition” where people should “self-regulate” and take “self-responsibility,” keeping in mind that COVID-19 still presents a risk as they start doing more pre-pandemic activities.
Beyond the end of the state mask mandate, officials will continue their vaccination efforts, as well as coronavirus testing and contact tracing, Beam said. Pennsylvania recently fired its contact tracing vendor, Insight Global, after it exposed the private medical information of tens of thousands of residents. Beam said the state will now work with the National Guard when it comes to contact tracing.
She added that state officials hope that during the summer months, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will allow younger and younger kids to get vaccinated, thus allowing for a safer return to schools.
She said that because the vaccines continue to be administered under a federal emergency use authorization, Pennsylvania will not mandate that kids get their shots. However, she noted, individual schools and districts may require that students be immunized.
At this stage, Beam said, the main barrier for people to get vaccinated isn’t access but hesitancy.
“Unfortunately, at this stage, many of our deaths feel preventable because they are the unvaccinated individuals at this point who are not only catching COVID but succumbing to COVID.”
She urged vaccinated people to talk to their friends and family to encourage them to get their shots.