Gov. Tom Wolf, right, wears a mask as he speaks to a Pennsylvania resident recently.

Potter and Elk counties each reported one more case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the numbers to 14 and 10, respectively.

This comes as many people in rural areas are balking at wearing masks, despite mandates from the state health department about wearing them inside businesses.

Nate Wardle, press secretary for the health department, said masks are required, and are very important to stop the spread of the virus.

“Mask wearing is required in all businesses in yellow and green phases of reopening,” he said. “The importance of masks even in counties in the green phase could have lasting effects as a COVID-19 surge is possible this fall.”

He reminded residents that the virus hasn’t gone away.

“Each of us has a responsibility to continue to protect ourselves, our loved ones and others by wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and washing our hands frequently,” Wardle said. “Together we can protect our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians, our essential workers and our healthcare system.”

Businesses are required to follow the state’s Worker Safety Order, which mandates mask-wearing by members of the public.

“It is essential that people realize my mask protects you, and your mask protects me, and it is part of your public duty to take steps to protect your fellow Pennsylvanians,” Wardle said.

Gov. Tom Wolf addressed the importance of masks earlier this week.

“As most counties are in or will soon be in the green phase of reopening, mask-wearing is a vital measure to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” Wolf said. “Pennsylvania has emerged as a leader among states for reduced cases amid increased reopening and we want that to continue to keep people safe and healthy while returning to many of the activities we enjoyed before COVID.”

According to a recent study in the Institute of Physics, wearing simple medical masks or improvised facial coverings reduces community exposures from asymptomatic, but unknowingly infectious, individuals.

The study concludes that while people may perceive them to be ineffective or burdensome to wear, “wearing some form of exhaled barrier (mask) out in public during pathogen outbreaks is an altruistic act serving not only as a form of enhanced cough or sneeze etiquette, but also to reduce the aerosols emitted from normal breathing or when talking. Without daily testing, nobody can be certain that they are not an asymptotic disease vector. Scientifically, this is a positive step towards helping combat the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams took to Twitter on Sunday to advise that mask-wearing is contributing to and not infringing on freedom, tweeting in part, “Some feel face coverings infringe on their freedom of choice — but if more wear them, we’ll have MORE freedom to go out.”

Wolf agreed.

“Mask-wearing needs to be a part of our everyday routines,” Wolf said. “When you leave the house, grab your keys, your wallet and your mask. Mask-wearing has proven to be an important deterrent to the spread of the virus and keeping Pennsylvanians safe and healthy is the goal as we reopen and continue our mitigation efforts.”

According to Wednesday’s numbers from the health department, Potter County has had 14 cases of COVID-19, 11 of which were confirmed and three of which were probable. A total of 259 people have tested negative.

Elk County has had 10 positive cases, seven of which were confirmed and three which were probable. A total of 633 people have tested negative.

McKean County has had 15 cases — 10 confirmed and five probable. Cameron County has remained at two cases, and 179 people have tested negative.

Statewide, there were an additional 495 positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 83,191.