On Wednesday afternoon in Pennsylvania, the wearing of masks became mandatory when you leave your home to go out in public, not just when visiting businesses as had previously been the case as part of the state's effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of Health for Pennsylvania, told the KDKA Radio Morning Show on Thursday why she signed the order. "The science is very clear, that masks are very helpful in terms of preventing community spread of this dangerous virus - COVID-19. I've said over and over, my mask protects you and your mask protects me and if we're all wearing masks, then the community is protected.
"And so, basically we want people to wear a mask when they leave their door if they're in public. So, if they are on mass transit; if they are walking down the street and there are other people there; if they're in a park and there are many people there, we want people to wear masks so the whole community is protected."
As the number of cases in the state have increased in recent days, Levine told Larry Richert and Kevin Battle that there's no scientific evidence that the virus is getting weaker and the state wants to avoid taking steps backwards into yellow or red phases of mitigation. "You can see the impact of the virus in many of our southern states including Florida and Texas and out west in Arizona and California. They have significant growth in the number of new cases and their hospitals are also full of patients with COVID-19. We're very fortunate in Pennsylvania that under the governor's leadership, we've been able to keep down the number of new cases. But as you said, we have had some recent increases in the last week, particularly in Allegheny County and in the southwest. So we don't want to wait until we start to fill up our hospitals in order to act."
There are those who believe the mask order is not necessary and say the COVID-19 mitigation efforts are political. Dr. Cyril Wecht told KDKA Radio on Wednesday that the mask order is "totally absurd" and that "society cannot continue to function under the rules of Dr. Rachel Levine and Governor Wolf. Cannot! Cannot!"
"This is not a political issue. This is not a partisan issue," Levine said. "This is a public health issue. Really, public health experts are uniform about the need for mask wearing. Dr. Fauci, our infectious disease expert in the country was highlighting this on multiple news stations yesterday and had testified to this earlier this week in congress. So, it's very clear that this is a very important public health measure to protect and prevent the community spread as has been seen in those southern states."