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Dr. Rachel Levine speaks about the COVID-19 situation in Pennsylvania.

COVID-19 is spreading faster than ever before. Pennsylvania is seeing higher daily case counts than in the spring, and hospitalizations are on the rise.

On Tuesday, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced four new mitigation efforts.

“It is our collective responsibility to protect our communities and our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians from COVID-19 and to continue to work together to get through this pandemic. These targeted mitigation efforts, combined with existing ones, are paramount to saving lives and protecting our economy,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “The administration will continue to monitor the risks posed by COVID-19 across the commonwealth and will reinstate or institute new targeted mitigation tactics as necessary.”

The efforts announced by Levine include the following: Strengthening the mask order, protecting the state’s healthcare system, testing travelers, and issuing recommendations for colleges and universities.

Levine first issued a masking order on April 15. The order signed Tuesday strengthens this initial order with these inclusions:

  • Masks are required to be worn indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home.
  • When outdoors, a mask must be worn if you are not able to remain physically distant (at least 6 feet away) from someone not in your household the entire time you are outdoors.
  • When indoors, masks will now be required even if you are physically distant from members not in your household. This means that even if you are able to be 6 feet apart, you will need to wear a mask while inside, if with people other than members of your household.
  • This order applies to every indoor facility, including homes, retail establishments, gyms, doctors’ offices, public transportation, and anywhere food is prepared, packaged or served.

Regarding the health care system, Levine issued a memorandum outlining expectations to care for Pennsylvanians who need care during the pandemic.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Dennis McCarthy, spokesman for Bradford Regional Medical Center, said Upper Allegheny Health System continues to keep watch on the COVID-19 situation in the Twin Tiers.

“We have been continually monitoring and reviewing our preparedness plans, PPE supplies, etc,” McCarthy said. “We are watching the rise closely, religiously enforcing our mitigation policies with managers and staff and urging the public to wear masks, social distance and wash their hands frequently.”

According to Levine, hospitals are to work through the established health care coalitions and other partnerships to prepare for how they will support one another in the event that a hospital becomes overwhelmed during the pandemic. Hospitals should also be working to move up elective procedures necessary to protect a person’s health and prepare to suspend them if the health care system becomes strained.

Regarding travelers, Levine issued an order requiring anyone who visits from another state to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering Pennsylvania. If someone cannot get a test or chooses not to, they must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvanians visiting other states are required to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to their return to the commonwealth or to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania, Levine’s order indicates.

This order, which takes effect on Friday, does not apply to people who commute to and from another state for work or medical treatment.

The departments of Health and Education issued recommendations for colleges and universities to implement a testing plan for when students return to campus following the holidays.

These recommendations include establishing routine protocols for testing.

Colleges and universities should have adequate capacity for isolation and quarantine and should be prepared to enforce violations of established policies such as mask wearing and physical distancing.

Every college and university should test all students at the beginning of each term, when returning to campus after a break and to have regular screening testing throughout the semester/term.

“We must remain united in stopping COVID-19,” Levine said. “Wear a mask, wash your hands, stay apart and download the COVID Alert PA app. If you test positive, please answer the call of the case reviewer and provide information that can help protect others. It’s the selfless, right thing to do.”

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