Responding to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania
Responding to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania
Last updated: 3:15 p.m., December 3, 2020
COVID-19 cases are at an all-time high. It’s more important than ever to wear a mask, keep your distance, and download the COVID Alert PA app.
COVID is tough, but together Pennsylvanians are tougher. United, we can defeat the virus. Here are resources to help individuals, families, and businesses do their part.
Keep checking back. This guide will be kept up to date as resources and information change. You can find up-to-date information about cases in Pennsylvania at on.pa.gov/coronavirus.
If somebody has taken drugs and becomes unresponsive, call 911 immediately. These resources are intended for preventive measures only.
Stopping the Spread of COVID-19
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include: fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.
Human coronaviruses spread:
- Through the air by coughing or sneezing.
- Through close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands.
- Touching an object or surface with the virus on it.
- Occasionally, fecal contamination.
Here’s how you can protect yourself and others:
- Wear a cloth face mask when you go out in public.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Limit physical contact with others not in your household.
- Clean surfaces frequently, including countertops, light switches, cell phones, remotes, and other frequently touched items.
- Cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow. Do not use your hands.
- If you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better.
Check out the Pennsylvania COVID-19 Dashboard to see up-to-date data on case counts and demographics, hospital preparedness, and testing.
COVID Mitigation in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is uniting against COVID. Here are the mitigation measures in place to keep people safe:
|Business, Work, School, Child Care, and Congregate Settings|
The Wolf Administration supports local officials who choose to maintain additional restrictions. The following counties are under additional local guidelines:
There are travel requirements in place across Pennsylvania. Visit the Department of Health’s website for the latest travel guidelines.
Event Occupancy and Gatherings
As Pennsylvania sees an increase in cases, the commonwealth is strengthening gathering restrictions. All large events and gatherings are now reduced until further notice. Use the maximum occupancy calculator to see the latest gathering limitations.
In addition, the retail food services industry, including bars, restaurants, and private catered events must end alcohol sales for on-site consumption at 5 p.m. on Nov. 25, 2020 only.
Household gatherings are also advised against when attendees include non-household members.
COVID Mitigation Orders
Mask Up, PA
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 are 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 applies to every indoor facility, including homes, retail establishments, gyms, doctors’ offices, public transportation, and anywhere food is prepared, packaged or served.
Members of the public should wear homemade cloth or fabric masks and save surgical masks and N95 respirators for health care workers and first responders.
Want to know more? See the frequently asked questions on the Department of Health website for more information on masking in Pennsylvania.
Masks and Businesses
In Pennsylvania businesses, everyone must wear a mask. That includes workers and customers.
Employers are required to provide masks to workers. To help with the sourcing of face masks and other PPE, here is a list of PPE manufacturers and suppliers in Pennsylvania.
If you’d like to file a public health complaint about a business where employees or customers are not wearing masks or a business is not providing or allowing cloth masks, use the Department of Health COVID-19 Complaint Form.
Go here for a comprehensive list of business FAQs on masks.
What Is Social Distancing?
Social distancing means staying away from close contact in public spaces. It includes actions like staying out of places where lots of people gather and maintaining distance — approximately 6 feet — from others.
Social distancing also includes minimizing contact with people by avoiding public transportation when possible, limiting nonessential travel, working from home, and skipping social gatherings.
All Pennsylvanians should practice social distancing — not just those who are seriously ill or at high risk.
Social distancing is a proven way to slow the spread of pandemics.
Given that this is a critical time for mitigation efforts and orders to be followed, the Wolf Administration is stepping up enforcement on the following orders:
- Out of State Travel
- Business Safety, including telework, occupancy, cleaning, social distancing
- Restaurant Mitigation, including occupancy, masking, social distancing, self-certification
- Gathering Limits
- School Attestation and Mitigation
Orders are enforceable as a disease control measure under the Disease Prevention and Control Law. Citations may be written under the Administrative Code of 1929 71 P. S. § 1409 and/or the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 35 P.S. § 521.20(a). The decision whether to issue a warning or a citation is made on a case-by-case basis and determined by the unique circumstances of each encounter.
Persons who fail to comply with an order may be fined between $25 and $300 dollars.
Enforcement agencies include the Pennsylvania State Police, local law enforcement, personnel from the departments of Agriculture and State, and PA Liquor Control Board stores who interact with visitors.
Reporting Health & Safety Violations
You can report a workplace health and safety violation related to COVID-19 by contacting your local health department or law enforcement agency.
You can also file a public health complaint about a business by using the Department of Health COVID-19 Complaint Form. Public health complaint categories include:
- Employees or customers not wearing masks.
- Business does not have protocol for positive or probable cases.
- Business does not screen employees for symptoms.
- Business is not cleaning high-touch surfaces.
- Business is not creating a safe environment for customers.
- Business is not allowing employees to telework when appropriate.
- Employees not providing or allowing cloth masks.
- Equipment not sanitized.
- Not allowed to stay home when sick or employees coming to work when sick.
- Social distancing not being practiced.
If you are employed in Pennsylvania and are unable to work because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for Unemployment Compensation (UC) or Workers’ Compensation (WC) benefits.
In addition to regular state Unemployment Compensation benefits, which provide roughly half of an individual’s full-time weekly income up to $572 per week, the federal CARES Act expanded UC benefits through several new programs:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) expands benefits to gig-economy workers, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals who are otherwise ineligible for unemployment.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) provides an additional 13 weeks of UC benefits to individuals who exhaust their regular 26 weeks of benefits, for a total of 39 weeks of coverage.
Check out our Guide to Unemployment Benefits to learn more.
Other Financial Help
If you have seen a reduction in pay due to COVID-19 and are struggling to make your credit card or loan payments, contact your lender right away. Regulatory agencies have encouraged financial institutions to work with customers impacted by the coronavirus. For guidance, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or contact a credit counselor near you.
Mortgage or Rent
If you can’t cover your mortgage payment or rent, contact your lender or landlord immediately. Do not wait until you’re behind on payments.
Some lenders may work out an agreement with you to waive late fees, set up a repayment plan or offer loan forbearance.
- Mortgage information: visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or find a housing counselor near you.
- Rental assistance: visit the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
On March 6, 2020, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Chairman signed an emergency order prohibiting terminations by utilities that are under the PUC’s jurisdiction, including:
- Natural Gas
This memorandum is in place for as long as Governor Tom Wolf’s Proclamation of Disaster is in effect.
If you are struggling to pay your utility bills, contact your service provider for possible emergency assistance programs.
Pennsylvanians out of work and without pay, or with significantly reduced hours as a result of COVID-19, are eligible to receive state and federally sourced foods from Pennsylvania’s food banks and pantries. Find a pantry near you, then give them a call to make arrangements.
There are many other food assistance resources available. Find a comprehensive list on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture website.
Mental Health Resources
It’s normal to feel stress around COVID-19. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not an indication of weakness.
Here are just a few mental health resources available to Pennsylvanians:
- Crisis Text Line: Text ‘PA’ to 741741 for help 24/7.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: If you or someone you care about is experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call the Lifeline at 800-273-8255. [Español: 888-628-9454.]
- PA’s new support helpline: Our new support helpline, run by the Department of Human Services, is here to help. Call 855-284-2494 to speak with someone today.
- Prevent Suicide PA: Learn the warning signs of suicide and how you can help, plus get other resources.
- Disaster Distress Helpline: Experiencing emotional distress due to COVID-19? Call 1-800-985-5990 or text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
- Get Help Now for substance use disorder: Recovery is not canceled. Reach out for support from the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs by calling 1-800-662-4357, or use the online chat function.
- Veterans Crisis Line: Are you a veteran in crisis or concerned about one? Connect with caring, qualified responders, many of whom are veterans themselves, by calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1, or chat online.
Use the Mental Health Resources guide to find more help and information available to Pennsylvanians
Businesses play a critical role in protecting your workers, customers, suppliers, and the general public.
All businesses with in-person operations should follow building and business safety guidelines issued by the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guidelines may change over time, so be sure to check back for updates. All federal, state, and local laws and regulations still apply.
COVID-19 Guidance for all Businesses
All businesses are required to review and comply with the COVID-19 Guidance for Businesses. This guide includes the basics our businesses and workers need to safely get back to work. As you reopen, you will need to follow all federal, state, and local laws and regulations.
Please print, sign, and post the COVID-19 Safety Procedures for Businesses sign (updated 6/26/20) near all public entrances and in worker common areas. Signs should be easy to spot. Two sizes are available for download — use whichever size that works best for your printer.
Legal-sized paper (8.5×14 inches and only uses one piece of paper)
Letter-sized paper (8.5×11 inches and uses two pieces of paper)
Self-certification is an optional program by which you can reassure your employees and customers that you are adhering to all appropriate guidance. Self-certification does NOT impose additional obligations or result in additional inspections; rather, business operators who self-certify have taken the additional step of confirming their dedication to protecting their employees and customers from COVID-19, and thus may increase their occupancy to 50 percent.
It’s free to join the program and enrollment is voluntary. Participating restaurants will receive:
- A listing on the searchable public Open & Certified PA Business Directory
- Permission to increase indoor dining from 25% to 50% occupancy
- Free Open & Certified Pennsylvania signs for your physical location, website, and social media channels
- Timely updates, reminders, and alerts for new business guidance and resources
The self-certification form is now available. To complete the form, you must:
- Read the full requirements (also available in Spanish) for self-certification included in the form
- Agree to comply with all requirements
- Provide your maximum indoor occupancy based on the fire code
- Confirm your information is correct
Owners should keep a copy of the self-certification confirmation they will receive by e-mail. For questions about the Open and Certified Pennsylvania program, read the Frequently Asked Questions or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources and Loans
To help navigate through the potential financial impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Pennsylvania businesses, the state and federal government are offering loans to help offset the revenue lost.
Check the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development website for the most up-to-date information on resources and loans for businesses.